FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2020
Contact: Ariela Moscowitz
[email protected] / 305-573-1106 x 1100
MIAMI – Over 700 immigrants currently detained at Broward Transitional Center (BTC) have lifted their voices to bring attention to the dire state of hygiene and health care in the detention center. Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) joins the detained immigrants in their calls for justice, and urges Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release all people currently detained at BTC. Those detained there report that the detention center is failing to take the necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They are confined in close quarters with other detained immigrants, many are experiencing flu-like symptoms, and new people are brought in each day without receiving thorough medical testing and examinations. During a recent water outage, people detained at BTC were left without the ability to drink water, wash their hands, or flush the toilets for 5 hours.
“Over the years, detainees held in ICE custody have been routinely subjected to poor, and often appalling, medical care. Detainees are entirely at the mercy of ICE to determine what medical care, if any, they get. Lives are literally at stake, and the urgency to obtain the release of those confined in immigration detention now cannot be overstated,” noted AI Justice Executive Director Cheryl Little.
Earlier this week, the former acting director of ICE, John Sandweg, urged ICE to release all immigrants not subject to mandatory detention, noting that ICE detention centers, “are extremely susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases.”
Many people in detention have conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus. Rafael, the U.S. citizen husband of a woman detained at BTC, told us, “My wife has asthma and is diabetic. If she gets the virus inside, she could die. ICE should let them out; she doesn’t deserve to be there and with the virus she should be released soon. The children miss her very much and are affected by her detention.”
On the very same day ICE released a statement saying it would only detain individuals who pose a public safety risk, they detained a father with a preexisting health condition and no criminal history. This individual – now detained at BTC –is a father of two children, a DACA recipient and a U.S. citizen, who are facing many sleepless nights wondering when they’ll be able to hold their father again.
We call upon ICE to take swift action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by immediately releasing detained immigrants into the care of their families, who are ready and willing to take them in as they continue their immigration proceedings. Amid this public health crisis, hearings at BTC and other detained courts continue, even though access to attorneys has practically come to a halt. Detainees are faced with an impossible set of circumstances. How can they fight for their freedom, safety and future with their family under these conditions?
In their letter, the detainees have painted a chilling picture, “BTC is a crowded facility with over 500 detainees not including staff members; six of us share a 10×12 room…The administration has canceled our family visitations…minimized the library capacity…yet we still gather for breakfast, lunch and dinner with over 300 people at a time in the cafeteria on a daily basis. We have a lot of flu like symptoms going around and we are getting frightened and worried that if any of the detainees get infected with the coronavirus it will start an epidemic on its own seeing that we are in a very confined space.” Read the signed letter from detainees at BTC here.
Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) is an award-winning non-profit law firm that protects and promotes the basic human rights of immigrants. In Florida and on a national level, it champions the rights of unaccompanied immigrant children; advocates for survivors of trafficking and domestic violence; serves as a watchdog on immigration detention practices and policies; and speaks for immigrant groups who have particular and compelling claims to justice.