Your donation will help detained immigrants leave the life-threatening conditions in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, where they face a high risk of COVID-19 infection.
Even before the pandemic, the NJ-based immigrant advocacy group, First Friends, has helped scores of detained migrants pay court-ordered bonds to secure their release as they await their hearings. That effort is more critical than ever given the pandemic -- but First Friends’ bond fund is almost empty.
More than 750 immigrants remain captive in northern New Jersey's four Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. Our goal is to raise $100,000 to secure the release of many more immigrants unjustly detained by ICE.
Detention Centers and the Pandemic
Crowded living conditions at detention centers and jails nationwide have become breeding grounds for COVID-19. Because North Jersey’s ICE facilities are in the pandemic’s epicenter, their residents face especially unsafe conditions. For example, five staff members at the Hudson County ICE facility have died of COVID-19. And after nineteen immigrants at the Essex County Detention Center tested positive for COVID-19, 100 immigrant detainees went on a hunger strike, protesting shortages of hand soap and disinfecting supplies, and the lack of systematic testing. Even the detainees who aren’t sick face difficult, frightening conditions. As ICE tries to ensure social distancing, some detention centers keep residents locked in single cells for up to 23.5 hours a day,
As of 6/13/2020 ICE had tested only 7,364 detained friends out of 24,041 friends that are currently being held by ICE across the country. There are currently 808 friends who have tested positive and are under isolation. These numbers do not reflect those friends who have tested positive but have been released, so the numbers of positive cases are much higher, this only counts for those who are currently in custody. When the pandemic started, NJ was the state with the highest numbers of detained friends who had tested positive for COVID-19. The first ICE detained friend who tested positive in the country was a friend detained at the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, NJ. https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/04/nj-has-more-immigrant-detainees-with-the-coronavirus-than-any-other-state.html
And all centers have sharply limited opportunities for recreation or human interaction. Fear and isolation have become the norm.
A detained friend in Essex County Correctional facility who wishes to remain anonymous shared the following statement:
“Acá la situación no es buena, yo trabajaba en la cocina y trabajando ahí me contagie del virus. Me sentía súper mal; estaba en aislamiento. en la primera semana toda la comida que me daban era muy fría, toda la vomitaba (la comida que me daban estaba congelada). Durante 4 días no pude salir a bañarme, no me dejaban salir. Mi temperatura subía a 104 grados y no bajaba. Ahora estoy un poco mejor, no al 100% porque hay veces me agito rápido. Ahora ya estoy de vuelta a la población general y tengo miedo de contagiarme de nuevo; aquí no existe el distanciamiento social.”
“Here the situation is not good, I worked in the kitchen and working there I got the virus. I felt super bad; I was in isolation. In the first week, all the food they gave me was very cold, I vomited it all (the food they gave me was frozen). For 4 days I couldn’t go out to bathe, they wouldn’t let me out. My temperature rose to 104 degrees and did not drop. Now I am a little better, not 100% because sometimes I shake quickly. Now I am back to the general population and I am afraid of catching it again; here there is no social distancing. ”
No one should be in detention because they cannot afford to pay their immigration bond.
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