Activists demand release of ICE detainees to slow spread of COVID-19

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!

Car rally 4 26 20 4
Never Again Action activists protested outside Strafford County House of Correction in Dover on April 26. Courtesy Photo

DOVER, NH – For the third time in three weeks, activists staged a car rally protest at the Strafford County NH Corrections House of Detention in Dover, New Hampshire.  This Sunday’s rally had the same message as the first two: “ICE must release all civilly-detained immigrants now to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the jail and in the wider community.”

This week’s rally drew 65 drivers compared with 60 on April 19 and 40 on April 11. Eva Castillo, director of NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, said, “It is nice to see that every week it is growing. It fills my heart to see how we’re coming together for humankind.”

Representative Renny Cushing of Hampton said, “It’s important that we are here bearing witness and that people being held here not be forgotten. People are here because of their dreams of a better life, not because of anti-social behavior.”

There are currently about 60 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees in the facility, according to Strafford County commissioners George Maglaras and Robert J. Watson. The government on Thursday granted temporary release to two detainees. One inmate at the Strafford County jail is being quarantined with test results pending, after arriving from a different jail where an employee had tested positive, according to a Union Leader article on April 22.

Detained immigrants are not a danger to the public

“The detained immigrants are not a danger to the public,” said activist Laura Aronson, citing a Syracuse University report that states, “A clear majority of the detained immigrant population has never been convicted with a violent or other serious criminal offense and does not pose a risk to public safety.”

Tess George, one of the organizers of the rally, recently returned from Matamoros in Mexico, where immigrant asylum seekers wait in camps while their cases are pending. She said, “Most of these people are simply looking for safety, fleeing gang violence and threats on their lives.  Now they are facing a possible death sentence just for trying to have a better life.”

Car rally 4 26 20 2 scaled
A lone counter protestor, left, holds a sign and flag as cars pass him by. Courtesy Photo

COVID-19 turns up the heat

According to Aronson, “Anne Frank, the World War II diarist, didn’t die in a gas chamber; she died of typhus, a communicable disease that killed half of the inmates in the crowded Bergen-Belsen camp. We are here for the safety of the immigrants and of the entire community. Once the tinderbox explodes, both inmates and staff are at increased risk, along with the public. It’s safer to release these people now.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and four law firms filed a class-action lawsuit on April 17 against Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking the immediate release of all ICE civil detainees from the Strafford County jail.

“Detaining people for immigration violations during a pandemic is a completely unacceptable and irresponsible game of public health Russian roulette. We don’t know who, and we don’t know when, but some people will get sick, and some people will die,” said Ron Abramson, counsel at Shaheen & Gordon PA, one of the four law firms. “The only way to minimize that possibility is to release as many people from detention as possible.”

Car rally 4 26 20 1 scaled
Cars are directed to the side of the jail by someone from the Strafford County Sheriff’s office. Courtesy Photo

According to an April 21 report by NPR,“ A federal judge in California recently ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to “identify and track” every person in ICE detention at an elevated risk of complications from COVID-19 and to consider releasing those detainees, regardless of their legal status. Risk factors identified by the court include pregnant women, people older than 55 and those with chronic health conditions. ICE says there are 220 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among those in ICE custody, and 30 confirmed cases among ICE employees working in detention facilities.

NPR also reports that in his opinion, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal wrote that ICE has “likely exhibited callous indifference to the safety and wellbeing of [detained immigrants at risk.] The evidence suggests system-wide inaction that goes beyond a mere ‘difference of medical opinion or negligence.’ “

Several hundred immigrants have been already been released from U.S. detention centers.  Never Again Action is hopeful that more immigrants will be released from Strafford County Jail.

Car rally 4 26 20 3 scaled
Two Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees have been granted temporary release by government officials from the Strafford County Department of Corrections jail in Dover, NH.

Never Again Action, a national organization, was founded in 2019 by Jews motivated by their prophetic tradition and their history of oppression. Its goal is to prevent ICE, DHS, CBP, and the corporations that support them from doing business as usual. The New Hampshire chapter has the added goal of engaging citizens directly in the issue. Activists in the New Hampshire chapter are diverse, including people from a wide range of religious backgrounds.

Subscribe Now and Never Miss Another Thing!

About this Author

News Release

Manchester Ink Link - Submit your content.

Your news your way.