At the start of April, a group of people in detention at El Paso Service Processing Center created several videos and held a paper up saying “Ayuda Por Favor No Queremos Morir... COVID-19” and “Saquenos De Aqui No Queremos Morir….COVID-19”. They, like others around the country in ICE detention, spoke out about the horrendous conditions in detention centers, and the complete lack of protection from the virus, during this pandemic. El Paso Service Processing Center is one of two detention facilities in our area; the other is the Otero County Processing Center in neighboring New Mexico. Outbreaks of COVID-19 in either facility would burden our local healthcare systems, and facilitate the spread of the virus among those in the community. Can ICE be trusted to ensure those in detention, and staff who work in those facilities are not infected?
No. Unfortunately, on April 10, 2020 the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center confirmed one staff member and one detained individual had tested positive for COVID-19 at the Otero County Processing Center. Late on April 16, reports began to come out of El Paso that a woman detained there tested positive. Clearly ICE has been unable to keep the virus out of these facilities, and they have failed to protect the health of those in their supposed care. Public health officials warn that keeping detention centers at current capacity creates a tinderbox ready to explode. Yet despite the efforts of attorneys and advocates to formally request mass releases from detention for the greater public health, ICE has not done so.
The lack of protective gear for migrants and workers inside facilities, the inability to exercise social distancing, the lack of soap, as well as the intimidation and retaliation against people trying to protect themselves by making their own masks or by demanding their rights make the situation inside El Paso Service Processing Center and Otero County Processing Center facilities even more serious. Guards come in and out of the facilities, continuing to expose people in detention to the virus without taking preventative measures. Migrants continue to be processed into the detention centers because despite the pandemic ICE continues to take people into custody and put them in congregate settings conducive to spreading the virus.
ICE is NOT an essential business - the shameful record of this agency proves that they cannot meet the health needs of the people they detain or employ. In the face of a severe public health crisis, we must demand that our congressional representatives stop funding ICE detention. We must redirect critical resources and funding to support healthcare workers and public health efforts to prevent, test for, and treat COVID-19. It's time to defund hate and invest in what communities really need. Demanding that everyone be freed from ICE custody is a first step toward re-directing critical funds to resources that benefit all of us.
Please join us to:
Community members in the El Paso region are ready to support all migrants coming out of detention with the proper care and resources so that they are able to stay safe in this pandemic.
Liberate all migrants NOW!