Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun releasing detainees on humanitarian parole, around 10 men were released on Tuesday, March 24th, and 20 women were released Friday, March 27th, along with 60 additional men. However, medical professionals and activists worry this effort is too little, too late, as these numbers represent just a fraction of the total population of approximately 700.
“If someone falls sick or dies, or if something else bad happens it will be because of gross negligence. GEO is not testing new people or keeping people apart, ignoring social distancing guidelines from the CDC. Now we must take extreme measures because they didn’t do what should and could have been done,” says Ivan, currently detained in GEO Detention Center in Aurora, CO. “If we get infected it’s due to poor management of this center. Putting new people from outside directly in with us when they could have placed them in empty units. It’s not right.”
“An officer who was working a quarantine area yesterday is now working my pod. They’re exposing us. We have no clean towels, because laundry has been stopped for almost a week. I’m worried. I really don’t want to die in here,” shared Baltazar Abel Sosa-Valenzuela, who is currently detained at GEO. “I know they’re releasing people, but parole is based on criminal history and that is also how they decide who is mandatory detention. I’m a mandatory detention candidate. Sad times. Tomorrow is one year for me here.”
“At this time, the only way to avoid needless death is to release everyone from detention. A new report from the Detention Watch Network called How ICE is Gambling with Immigrant Lives Amid a Global Pandemic outlines the risks very clearly.” shares Jennifer Piper, Interfaith Director of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). “Until then, detainees and loved ones inside demand that GEO must restock the commissary with personal hygiene items such as shampoo and hand sanitizer. They must divide remaining people into smaller groups, disinfecting newly empty areas. GEO must stop rotating guards between quarantine and non-quarantined areas, and cease allowing new people from outside in any pod currently occupied.”
“The situation inside the detention center is increasingly tense. People are losing hope and are getting increasingly desperate as they see a lack of concern for their health all around them. Our loved ones share that guards are being crueler than usual, that GEO is threatening to lock everyone down if they continue to protest or complain. Simply sitting together in small groups sees them accused or punished for ‘planning a protest,’ while ICE and GEO refuse to take any steps to prevent the spread of illness,” says Ana Rodríguez, organizer with the Colorado People’s Alliance (COPA). “Some detainees are worried that GEO is risking a riot as everyone gets more desperate because conditions do not improve fast enough.”
“While detainees continue to experience neglect, we demand that every single person be released. Our letter to ICE Field Director John Fabricatorre, GEO Warden John Choate and our Colorado Congressional Delegation was signed by over 1,000 medical professionals, faith leaders, and individuals,” says Jordan García, Colorado Director of the AFSC. “Thankfully, Congressman Crow is listening and called for additional support from other members of Congress to call for limited release from detention centers. But for those who likely won’t be released, they fear this negligence is putting their lives at risk. No one deserves this kind of treatment.”
AFSC and COPA will lead a week of action in Colorado through Saturday April 4th as part of the Detention Watch Network’s national week of action calling on ICE to #FreeThemAll.
For more info contact AFSC Colorado at afsc.org/office/denver-co or call 303-623-3464 at or COPA at coloradopeoplesalliance.org, firstname.lastname@example.org or Text “yes” to 720-441-0615 to receive text alerts and updates.
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