Never Again Action activists called on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to take immediate action to protect migrants in California’s immigration detention facilities from COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus.
The American Jewish activist group joined three other immigrant legal defense organizations to support freeing immigrants from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, detention camps. Never Again Action has also joined more than 150 organizations in co-signing a letter to Newsom calling for the release of all migrants in detention and the suspension of their transfer from California custody to ICE.
“We are in the midst of an international health crisis where people kept in close quarters are in the greatest danger of contracting and spreading COVID-19,” the letter states. “Health professionals have already indicated that incarcerated populations are well on their way to being at the epicenter of this pandemic.”
Activists from Never Again Action said they have felt the need to act against ICE since June 2019. They have now gathered 50 chapters and 10 full-time supporting local groups working to “take down ICE” for alleged violence.
Never Again Action also led a demonstration March 22 near the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston to order the release of nearly 52,000 immigrant detainees in detention camps around the country to protect them from the disease.
“We want to remind the governor that Anne Frank died in a detention camp of an infectious disease,” said Emily Laskin, Never Again Action spokesperson in the Bay Area. “We are doing what we wish bystanders had done for our ancestors in the Holocaust.”
In the letter, the organizations express that the expansion of unequipped immigration detention facilities during the pandemic could result in the further spread of COVID-19 in California.
According to policy director of Immigrant Defense Advocates Jackie Gonzalez, it is not certain that federal authorities will take immediate action to protect this vulnerable population.
The organizations also said in the letter that they feel Newsom has the “authority and responsibility” to protect all Californians. According to the press release, this can be done by freezing ICE raids, stopping detentions and releasing detained migrants so that they may shelter-in-place.
As of press time, Newsom has not directly responded to the letter, but Gonzalez said she feels there is still hope that organizations such as Immigrant Defense Advocates can explore a humanitarian resolution to this crisis with Newsom.
“We know that they haven’t been provided with enough medical care and enough hygiene supplies even before there was a pandemic,” Laskin said. “Unfortunately, it’s not hard to imagine what will happen in those conditions once the infection starts spreading inside.”
Both Newsom and ICE were contacted for comment, but neither responded as of press time.