In the midst of an alarming outbreak of COVID-19 in California prisons, now making its way into immigration detention centers, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity delivered a letter to Attorney General Xavier Becerra signed by 514 faith leaders from various faith traditions and 35 religious organizations across California.
We urgently request the Attorney General inspect, investigate, regulate and hold GEO and other private immigration detention operators accountable for their poor safety and public health practices prior and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Deaths have occurred inside detention facilities related to COVID-19 and medical negligence. HDQ Neutral Spray has been sprayed inside confined housing units of Adelanto despite the manufacturer’s guidelines that this disinfectant should only be used outdoors and in well-ventilated areas. There has been a failure to reduce numbers in accordance with the United States District Court ruling designed to lower the number of COVID-19 cases. The Attorney General has the authority to investigate the deaths that have occurred under the supervision of GEO and other private detention operators, inspect the detention facilities for health and safety standards in accordance with AB 103, regulate their operations to assure GEO is operating within their boundaries and hold corporations liable for violations for the law.
“We write with urgent concern about the human rights abuses and deteriorating conditions inside the Adelanto Detention Facility, and other ICE facilities. While we have a clear understanding that immigration is a federal issue, we underscore the authority that California has to undertake measures, which do not interfere with immigration enforcement or the operations of the federal government. We prayerfully urge you, Attorney General Becerra, to use your power to investigate and enforce the laws.”
35 Co-Sponsoring Religious Organizations: These organizations include denominations, religious networks, conferences and non-profit organizations.
514 Signatures from Faith Leaders: These signatures include Rabbis, Imams, Reverends, Priests, Sisters, Ministry Leaders, Buddhists, Pastors, and many others.
140 Cities Across California: These signatures come from all over California. From the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Central Valley, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and many other municipalities in California.
We prayerfully urge Attorney General Xavier Becerra to uphold human rights and dignity in the following ways:
1) Inspect the health and safety standards of the Adelanto Detention Facility and other CA facilities, as mandated by AB 103.
2) Investigate the deaths that have recently occurred in immigration detention facilities: the unconfirmed death in Adelanto on May 31st; Mr. Ahn in Mesa Verde; and Mr. Escobar Mejia in Otay Mesa.
3) Use the state’s powers to regulate detention facilities operating within its borders in order to ensure public health and safety.
4) Hold private operators accountable for actions which violate the terms of their federal contracts and result in civil or criminal liability.
Luis, recently released immigrant from Adelanto Detention Center:
“GEO employees installed hand sanitizing dispenser units in my housing section but they contained no liquid at all. I was given a mask but only at the time of my release from detention. Once we started hunger striking, we began experiencing the retaliation from guards. We were kept separated and isolated from each other. No phone calls were allowed even to our attorneys. We were only distributed food once a day. I am grateful to be back with my family but I am also worried for those who are still detained. Many are sick and need to be released.”
Erica, wife of immigrant currently detained inside Adelanto:
“My husband was brought to the U.S. as a 12 year old child. This is the only home he knows, where he works, contributes by paying taxes and has built a family with me. He was taken to the Adelanto Immigrant Detention center in February and his hearings keep being postponed due to many factors. He shares with me that conditions there are terrible and I feel so hopeless at this great injustice.”
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, Board of Directors:
“While immigration is a federal issue, the state of California does have the power to intervene and be leaders in upholding the sacredness of immigrants. Our faith traditions and the international human rights treaties we have signed demand that we “not stand idly by when the blood of our neighbors is being shed.” And this is literally the case, our neighbors are dying because of the inadequacy of our public institutions to protect human life. Families are shattered, children are made orphans, people are needlessly dying. You can intervene. It is a sacred choice.”
Fr Eric Metoyer, Director of Mission Development, Episcopal Diocese of California:
“I signed this letter to Attorney General Becerra because our faith communities ask his help upholding the human rights and dignity of the people held in immigration detention. The systemic racism and xenophobia of these detention facilities deny the respect and dignity, the humanity, of the people incarcerated therein. The current conditions of the detainees, exposed to COVID-19, denied food, access to telephones, and probability of death in detention, do not respect their humanity and dignity as people. The conditions of the detainees require us to hear their pleas, require us to speak out, as people of faith, to demand their dignity and humanity be recognized. We ask the Attorney General to investigate these centers and end the unsafe and inhumane conditions.
We pray and work to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
Sister Judy Lu McDonnell, OP, and Lyn Kirkconnell, Co-Promoters of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation for Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and Mission San Jose:
“Our congregations, Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and Mission San Jose, are calling for the release of all people living in detention centers. They belong with their families and the communities they have come to call their own. Your own detention report of 2019 found “difficulties with access to medical and mental health care…” In addition, our faith and concern for our sisters and brothers, lead us to condemn the conditions recently reported of failure to protect from Covid-19 as a violation of human rights and dignity, as is the use of toxic chemical sprays, among other violations found in Adelanto, Mesa Verde and Otay Mesa detention facilities. These privately owned companies are concerned with protecting their stocks, not the people housed therein. We applaud your record of supporting the safety rights of immigrants and their families and ask you to use the state’s powers to regulate, inspect and investigate detention centers in California and, if possible, to release immigrants held therein.
We are part of a larger network of sanctuary and immigrant supporting congregations, many of whom have the experience and capacity to provide support to people upon release. As such, we count on you to raise your voice of integrity and justice to uphold the human dignity of the people and interests in the state of California.”