By Hannah Hafter on March 31, 2020
The first COVID-19 cases in immigration detention and in immigrant children shelters have been confirmed, as of March 27. Inside at least six immigrant detention centers, people are organizing hunger strikes to demand their freedom, knowing that a COVID-19 outbreak will spread quickly and lead to many unnecessary deaths.
To support their efforts, UUSC is co-sponsoring the #FreeThemAll Week of Digital Action from March 30 – April 5 with Detention Watch Network and other partners to lift up solidarity actions around the country. Immigrants organizing inside detention have called on us to push ICE, Governors, and other targets to release them, provide free soap and sanitation supplies, and demands for other fundamental safety measures. Just a few examples:
- In Washington state, where infection rates are soaring, at least 95 people inside the infamous Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) started their hunger strike over the weekend, demanding temporary humanitarian visas, to be reunited with their families, and a stop to all deportation and immigration court proceedings until the pandemic is over. As one hunger striker who reached out to organizer Maru Mora-Villalpando at La Resistencia said, “We don’t want to die. We are humans, not animals.”
- In Louisiana, at the South Louisiana Processing Center, a group of women have put out a video message through a visitation call with The Intercept. They say that a detained woman from Ecuador who served food in the kitchen was so sick she was carried out on a gurney. Now her dorm, with 72 women in close quarters, is on lock down. ICE has provided no information on COVID-19, and everything they know comes from watching TV news.
- In Massachusetts, over 90 immigrants have signed a series of letters from Units A & B of the Bristol County Jail, and a representative from the group communicates regularly with the Boston Immigrant Justice Accompaniment Network. They say that the public pressure has succeeded in getting them soap and cleaning supplies – but what they really need is freedom from the dangerously crowded conditions. Their latest letter states, “…we are now living in fear for our [lives] because more detainees are being brought in directly from the street everyday.”
Join us in the #FreeThemAll Digital Week of Action!
If you want to do more, you can mobilize your own networks around the week of action using the Detention Watch Network’s digital toolkit, and organize locally with UUSC’s “5 Ways to Liberate People in Prison and Detention From COVID-19.” Use hashtag #FreeThemAll when you post on social media.
As one hunger striker from NWDC told La Resistencia, “We have a voice; we are not alone. We are united, creating a single chain: this is a message to not give up. [If] more people join us every day, together we can achieve this….Come together, join us, you are not alone, we are united.”
Photo Credit: Detention Watch Network
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!