On April 30, a federal judge ordered ICE to release some people currently held in three detention centers in South Florida. In the order, the judge stated that ICE had acted with “deliberate indifference” to the condition of the immigrants held in their custody. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE has allowed detainees to be exposed to this virus through their lack of observance of health protocols. The scarcity of tests, masks, hygienic products, and ability to socially distance in detention centers has become a threat to the lives of immigrants in detention. In fact, of the nearly 32,000 people in ICE custody, only 705 people have been tested of which 425 (or 60%) have tested positive.
On May 1, medical professionals and family members maintained their safe social distance outside of the Broward Transitional Center to demand that ICE comply with the order and release people to their families and ensure that immigrants and detention center personnel receive prompt testing and treatment.
“We already know of two positive cases amid detainees in South Florida, and there are possibly many more we don’t know about. To this day, we don’t know their state of health (health status). We don’t know the extent of their medical care and wellbeing. We don’t know what kind of measures ICE is taking to test detainees and to prevent further spread and we know that ultimately there is no safe way to physically distance in detention camps,” stated Dr. Claudia Alvarez, Family Physician and Hospitalist in Miami, Florida and member of Doctors for Camp Closure.
“We hear that detainees do not have adequate access to sanitation, that neither guards nor detainees are wearing masks, and that adequate quarantine is not taking place,” said Dr. Frankyln Rocha-Cabrero, Neurologist in Miami, Florida, leader with the Florida Chapter of the American Medical Association and with the Committee of Interns and Residents. “We are calling on ICE to demonstrate leadership and aid the medical workforce in trying to stem the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic by immediately releasing individuals from ICE detention.”
“We are calling on ICE to demonstrate leadership and aid the medical workforce in trying to stem the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic by immediately releasing individuals from ICE detention.”
Dr. Frankyln Rocha-Cabrero
Dr. Lily Ostrer, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics physician in Miami, Florida and leader with the Committee of Interns and Residents, said: “Detention in the era of COVID-19 is a death sentence. ICE needs to immediately release individuals from detention, or we risk widespread mortality and overwhelming our entire local medical system. This is not only a matter of human rights, but of smart public health policy.”
Simultaneously, community members organized themselves and carried out a car protest outside the Broward Transitional Center (BTC) while United We Dream doubled efforts to drive calls to the ICE Miami Field Office demanding ICE to release people now.
“Yesterday, a judge ordered ICE to release people at three detention centers, and today I joined Health Care professionals and other community members at a car rally to demand ICE comply and let our people go,” said Maria Bilbao, Florida Organizer of United We Dream. “At the same time, people were making calls to demand ICE
#FreeThemAll. ICE’s treatment is immoral and they must stop all immigration enforcement to ensure the safety of all people.”
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