A Statewide Protest to Shut Down California’s Concentration Camps
The following is the press release I received for the Statewide Day of Action for Immigrant Justice. Events will be happening in San Francisco (Justin Herman Plaza), Los Angeles (Downtown Federal Building), San Diego (Waterfront Park), and online. you can learn more about the individual protests right here.
On August 8th 2020, people from all over the state including San Diego, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area, will be converging on detention and state centers to make the following demands:
1. To save lives, Gov. Newsom and AG Becerra must immediately end ALL California cooperation with ICE. We demand that Gov. Newsom support the demands of detained immigrants, who are organizing across California, and community organizations.
a. Stop all transfers from California prisons and jails to ICE detention
b. Stop all expansion of detention centers in our state
c. Lead an independent investigation and hold detention centers accountable for putting lives at risk during the pandemic.
2. At the federal level, we are also fighting to Abolish ICE, Close the Camps and #FreeThemAll: ICE must release all detained people, starting with the most vulnerable to COVID. While decarceration takes place, ICE and private prison corporations must provide safe [housing], protective gear, and medical attention.
In cities around the country and around the world, tens of thousands of people are pouring into the streets demanding an end to the White Supremacy that has led armed agents of the state to murder members of the African-American community with impunity. We stand with that movement which is calling for defunding and disbanding the brutal police state, and to assert that #BlackLivesMatter.
The mechanisms built to target, detain, and deport immigrants are rooted in, and function in collaboration with the systems of anti-Black racism and white supremacy, which have existed in the United States since before its founding. In California, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) locks up thousands of immigrants who are a vital part of our communities in a series of detention centers or concentration camps. Many Black immigrants who are disproportionately targeted and criminalized are also detained, a fact that for too long has gone ignored. For instance, 37 year-old Cameroonian refugee Nebane Abienwi died on October 1st 2019 while in ICE custody at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego.
Migrants continue to face severe medical neglect, and by design, social distancing is impossible in any form of incarceration. As a result of this negligence, a serious outbreak of COVID-19 has devastated the Otay Mesa Detention Center, leading to the death of 57-year-old Carlos Escobar Mejia. When a dozen detainees went on a hunger strike to protest the conditions, they were even tear-gassed by guards. OMDC officials then cut-off outside communication as punishment.
Meanwhile, the “solution” on offer at Adelanto Detention Center is to spray toxic chemicals every 15 minutes, which has led to rashes and illness among detained people. This is a cruel mockery of the urgent demands of immigrants who are detained.
Detained immigrants across California are bravely organizing for justice. Earlier last month, a group of immigrants at Mesa Verde, including Black immigrants, held a hunger strike in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. They also demanded action from state officials. It’s time for us to have their backs.
We must support this courageous organizing, and we must defund all forms of state violence and racist policing, in detention centers, prisons, jails, and on the streets. Outrageously, the budget for ICE and CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) combined was as much as $24 billion, funds that could be put towards human needs and a decent quality of life for all. Communities that have been the most impacted should have the greatest say in redefining public safety and creating opportunity.
In California, GEO group and CoreCivic, private corporations, run most of the major immigrant detention camps. And while AB32 passed last fall, which was supposed to end state contracts with all private prisons and detention centers, ICE renewed all of its contracts before the law could take effect. Governor Newsom, who signed AB32, has stood by and watched as the case slowly winds its way through the courts. Governor Newsom has also refused to use his power to stop the transfer of migrants from California’s prisons and jails to ICE detention, allowing people to be transferred from one “tinderbox” of COVID-19 to another. He has also failed to launch any sort of investigation into these for-profit facilities where thousands of migrants are languishing in overcrowded, unsanitary cages during a pandemic.
Additionally, on June 26th, federal judge Dolly M. Gee called for the swift removal of all migrant children who are being held by ICE, setting a deadline of July 17th for release. She cited COVID-19 and described inadequate measures taken to protect people in detention from the virus, “instilling fear in the hearts of migrant parents.” This sets a powerful precedent for all migrants being held in these same unsanitary and dangerous conditions during this pandemic. We must push on to make sure all of the children are released with their families, along with every other person being held in these packed cages!
*Note: Please take safety precautions when applicable including wearing masks, at least 6 feet of distance, and having hand sanitizer and water bottles on hand to minimize the spread of COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected communities of color.
For more info, contact FreeThemAllCali@gmail.com
Sponsored by the Free Them All Coalition Bay Area; Alliance to Defend Immigrants Los Angeles; Free Them All San Diego; Coalition to Close the Camps, Free our Children; DSA San Francisco Immigration Rights and International Solidarity Committee; Never Again Action-Bay Area; Bay Resistance; American Federation of Teachers, Local 1931 Immigrant Student Support Committee; Marx21, Internal Medicine Solidarity Coalition, 805 Immigrant, United Corazon; Do No Harm Coalition; Internal Medicine Solidarity Coalition; Health Justice Commons (List Still in Formation)