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We Demand the Release of People in ICE Detention to Ensure Population Stays Safe During COVID Spread

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE San Francisco, California

Press Contacts: Rebekah Entrelago Media Advocacy Strategist, Freedom for Immigrants Katie Kavanagh Lead Rapid Response Attorney, California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ)

Coalition of Legal Service Providers and Community Organizations Demand the Release of People Held in ICE Detention Centers in Norcal and Central Valley to Ensure Population Stays Safe During Spread of COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which threatens to spread rapidly through ICE detention facilities, a coalition of legal service providers and community organizations in California has sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and the administrators of local ICE detention facilities demanding that they release all individuals held at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility (MVDF) in Bakersfield and the Yuba County Jail in Marysville, starting with those who are at highest risk of serious illness if infected by COVID-19.

ICE cannot guarantee the health and safety of detained people during the COVID-19 outbreak. In the past, mumps, scabies, and other highly contagious diseases have spread amongst the detained immigrant population in Northern California and the Central Valley because facilities are overcrowded and do not meet basic hygiene or medical needs. As recently as yesterday, ICE detainees in Yuba County Jail reported that they had not been provided with free hygiene supplies, such as soap or antiseptic wipes. Many ICE detainees at Yuba and all detainees at MVDF sleep in massive dormitories with dozens of others and are required to have meals mere inches from their fellow detainees. Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes were not permitted in the facility when advocates visited last week.

Until all individuals are released, the coalition demands that ICE and the facilities take the following urgent measures:

  1. Provision of hygiene supplies

  2. Screening and testing of all individuals in custody

  3. Off-site quarantining and treatment of affected individuals

  4. Free phone calls to access family and community support

  5. Suspension of all in-person check-ins (as has been adopted by numerous Enforcement and Removal Operations (“ERO”) offices across the country)

  6. Suspension of all enforcement operations and removals across Northern California and the Central Valley

The coalition requested that ICE to respond to the letter within 48 hours, and has requested a prompt, remote meeting between advocates and David Jennings, the San Francisco ICE Field Office Director.

Organizations that have signed the letter to ICE attached to this press release include legal service providers and community organizations committed to protecting and advancing the rights of low-income, immigrant communities through legal representation, education and advocacy. The coalition includes:

  1. ACLU of Northern California

  2. African Advocacy Network

  3. Alameda County Public Defender

  4. Alianza Sacramento

  5. Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC)

  6. Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus

  7. Bay Area Asylum Support Coalition (BAASC)

  8. California Coalition for Women Prisoners

  9. California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ)

  10. California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA)

  11. Campaign for Immigrant Detention Reform


  13. Catholic Charities East Bay

  14. Catholic Charities San Francisco

  15. Center on Race Poverty & the Environment

  16. Centro Legal de la Raza

  17. Community Democracy Project

  18. Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA)

  19. Community United Against Violence

  20. Detention Watch Network

  21. Dolores Huerta Foundation

  22. Dolores Street Community Services

  23. Education and Leadership Foundation

  24. Faith in the Val