Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees (FOMDD), the Miramar Circle of Protection, Broward for Progress, and the People’s Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade, Florida immigrant coalition and others held a peaceful demonstration and press conference outside the ICE field offices in Plantation, Florida.
The demonstration urged U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release people from Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven, Florida, which has become one of the nation’s top 10 detention centers for positive cases of Covid-19. They are also urging ICE to end its contract with Glades since the facility is unable to provide adequate prevention or care.
Activists are also calling on congress members to hold ICE accountable.
For months, immigrants detained at Glades have been sounding the alarm over the facility’s lack of Covid-19 precautions. As of June 4, the entire detained population of 320 people had been exposed, 61 people had tested positive, and one person had been hospitalized. ICE has not provided details on whether the other 259 have been tested.
The crisis is unfolding over a month after a Miami federal judge said conditions at Glades, Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, and Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach amounted to “cruel and unusual punishment.”
She ordered the release of hundreds of detainees held at Glades and the two other centers. Rather than releasing them, ICE has transferred them among the three centers and beyond without testing them.
This practice has caused outbreaks of Covid-19 at detention centers in Florida and several other states.
Activists are also calling on congress members to hold ICE accountable. “We want more than words from our elected officials,” says Bud Conlin, chair of FOMDD. “We are urging them to perform their oversight function of ICE. This government agency behaves as if it can act with total impunity. Our representatives must make them answer for their utter disregard for human life.”
Despite Judge Cooke’s order—and despite detained individuals’ hunger strikes,
numerous complaints and release requests filed by FOMDD, and multiple lawsuits—people detained at Glades say staff did not take adequate measures to control the spread of coronavirus. During a June 3 hearing before Judge Cooke, Steve Cooper, a 39-year-old Jamaican national detained at Glades, testified to current conditions. Soap dispensers frequently run out of soap for days at a time and bunks are so close together he can touch the person in the next bunk. People must also sit close together while eating, he said. FOMDD has filed 36 release requests for individuals at Glades with serious risk factors like asthma, HIV, congestive heart failure, and more. To date, only two of those individuals have been released. The Covid-19 crisis has escalated quickly at Glades. On May 21, ICE revealed in federal
court that 336 out of the 338 individuals detained there at the time had been exposed to the virus and that a Sheriff’s deputy had tested positive. On May 25, FOMDD began receiving “multiple reports about people suffering from fevers, some in excess of 104 degrees,” says a complaint FOMDD Executive Director Wendy King filed with the Department of Homeland Security on May 28. “On May 25th, Glades County Jail went on lockdown, with each dorm becoming quarantined.”
A second complaint, filed June 5, says that “access to Covid-19 testing is reserved only for people with very high fevers. People experiencing low-grade fevers and symptoms including loss of taste, loss of smell, body aches, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, vomiting blood, etc. are refused to test.”
The June 5 complaint also describes the continued practice of cohorting.
Since everyone detained at Glades has been exposed, “people who have tested positive for Covid-19 are immediately returned to their housing units to eat, sleep, and live alongside other detained people not exhibiting symptoms of the virus,” says the complaint.
One of the 61 people who tested positive was Roberto Martinez-Leon, a 54-year-old Cuban national. “He shouldn’t have gotten sick,” says his fiancé Erika Carrillo. “They didn’t follow the protocols to keep him from getting sick. They transferred him somewhere else instead of releasing him. We want him home, we want him free, so we can take better care of him.”
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