Updated: Mar 2
For immediate release
August 18, 2020
2020.08.18 – Yesterday afternoon, immigration advocates met with Governor Newsom’s office to express their concerns about the plight of Black immigrants held in immigration detention centers throughout California. As COVID-19 rages in immigration detention, and disproportionately affects Black people, advocates challenged Newsom to take decisive action to address what is now a life and death issue for Black immigrant communities.
In particular, advocates raised concerns about the ongoing complicity between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), which Newsom oversees, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) transfers into detention facilities which have turned into a hotbed for COVID. The Newsom administration has continued a policy of transferring people eligible for release from state facilities into immigration detention centers, rather than reuniting them with their loved ones, despite warnings from medical experts against transferring people from one “tinderbox of infection” to another. Recent evidence indicates that transfers from California custody have led to the spread of virus amongst immigrants in detention.
Despite the Governor’s office having ample information and clarity about these requests, and receiving significant public pressure, Gov. Newsom’s staff told advocates that they “can’t commit to anything”, and would not provide any information about plans to address the situation at hand.
“It is very disheartening to have this issue be treated this way,” said Guerline Jozef, President of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “To have only thirty minutes to meet when impacted people are trying to describe their life or death experiences in detention, and our organizations are desperate to save peoples lives. It feels like they are just checking a box when meeting with us.”
The half hour meeting was in response to an open letter sent to elected officials on July 30 by the African Advocacy Network, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project; and signed by over 60 other supporting organizations. The letter focused on the disparate treatment of Black immigrants and listed specific demands and actions for Governor Newsom and other elected officials to take in order to support Black immigrants.
Advocates have noted that Newsom has been quick to pay lip service to the issue of Black Lives Matter, yet has refused to put these words into practice in his treatment of detained immigrants and those incarcerated by the state.
This meeting is the latest in a series of ongoing efforts by advocates, going back nearly five months, asking the Governor to take on specific actions in relation to immigrants in detention. In late July, a group of undocumented organizers and immigration attorneys chained themselves to the fence of the Governor’s suburban mansion to urge him to act.
Newsom has said little in response to mounting pressure to end ICE transfers, despite Centers for Disease Control guidance recommending against the practice. Advocates have also noted the ability of the State’s attorney general to inspect immigrant detention facilities under AB 103 and the potential for the state to hold private corporations running these facilities accountable under state laws.
“The lack of commitment from the Governor’s office to take action is extremely frustrating. For too long, Black immigrants have been marginalized and denied justice. We had hoped that Governor Newsom would be a partner in changing this and have made clear that time is of the essence in saving Black immigrant lives. Their refusal to act swiftly will have devastating repercussions” said Maria Arrine, Senior Staff Attorney at the African Advocacy Network.
The following press release was issued by the African Advocacy Network, which is a partner of CCIJ.