The Immigrant Justice Network is a partnership of the Immigrant Defense Project, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Just Futures Law, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG):
As the COVID-19 epidemic rages on, it has become clearer than ever that we are all in this together and that all of our fates are deeply linked. We’re only as healthy as the most vulnerable of our communities.
In this unprecedented moment, we must be guided by science, reason and justice. And as we seek to create physical distance and #FlattenTheCurve, an array of leading doctors and health professionals has sounded the alarm about our nation’s crisis of mass incarceration. And these professionals have made it clear that due to the inherent nature of mass incarceration, where the government locks people in cages in close proximity to each other, it is simply impossible to flatten the curve in prisons, jails, or immigration detention centers.
This means that #FreeThemAll is a public health imperative for all of us, and we stand in full solidarity with our partners across the criminal justice and immigrant rights movements who have made demands to release people from cages. Whether we are talking about people in federal and state prisons, local jails, or immigration detention, we are talking about people who are already suffering from deeply unjust and discriminatory systems, where obstacles to justice abound and compassion is starkly absent.
Public health leaders have made it clear that our collective well-being as a society depends on releasing as many people as possible from all forms of incarceration. It is not enough to have bottles of sanitizer and toilet paper (in fact, hand sanitizer is often considered contraband).
As immigrant advocates working at the intersection of the immigration and criminal legal systems, we know first hand that the U.S.’s immigration system is putting the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants at risk every day. Many people are shocked to learn that the federal government cruelly and needlessly detains tens of thousands of immigrants, locking them up in harsh and unsanitary detention conditions where they remain unprotected. In fact, the Trump administration has imprisoned many immigrants in facilities that already had poor access to medical care and – due to ICE’s negligence – multiple outbreaks of disease. Their detention has always been cruel and unnecessary, but at this moment, it is also recklessly endangering their lives. ICE and CBP must release or parole all immigrants now.
ICE’s statement yesterday – deceptive and dangerous
Even as this crisis has unfolded, ICE has continued to conduct raids at homes and workplaces, irresponsibly creating fear for countless families and communities — and making it harder for people to get the medical care they need. And let’s be clear: yesterday’s announcement from ICE claiming it will focus on so-called “safety threats” is dangerously deceptive. The criminal legal system is filled with racial profiling and obstacles to equal justice. We cannot allow the dehumanizing labels that stem from the system to serve as cover for profound abuses of human rights. At this point, putting anyone into detention during this pandemic may literally amount to a death sentence. These operations must cease immediately.
The current moment has highlighted the severe and persistent racism and injustice of our immigration system, which treats the lives and well-being of Black immigrants and other immigrants of color as disposable. While immediate measures must be taken to stop the spread of the virus and ensure immigrants in detention have proper access to medical care and precautionary measures, ultimately what we need is fundamental change of a system designed to cage and shut out immigrants of color.
Now, more than ever, we must demand that the federal government invest in the health and wellbeing of all communities — not cruel systems that put all of us, no matter what we look like or where we were born, at risk.