Coronavirus Pandemic: Protecting Detainees - Part 1
While many of the country shelters in place, thousands of immigrants across the country are detained in place, held inside the walls of ICE detention centers.
For their families, trying to get them out is an uphill battle and during the coronavirus pandemic, the stakes, and hills, are even higher.
Getting undocumented immigrants held in ICE custody is difficult under normal circumstances.
"When you hear the calls, you can hear how scared they are in the facilities, you can hear, you know, in the background you can hear yelling and screaming,” says Andres Jimenez, Anti-Detention Team Coordinator and Bond Fund Coordinator at New Sanctuary Coalition.
Jimenez says he has been taking on the job of getting undocumented immigrants out of ICE custody since before the pandemic. A job with now even more mounting pressure as ICE reported its first COVID-19-related death, a 57-year-old Salvadoran man who was held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego.
With almost 30,000 people in ICE custody nationwide, the agency says it has seen over 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Many of those detainees are forced to make a tough decision with their very few minutes of free time; take a shower or call representation.
"And they can't do both at the same time,” says Jimenez.
Jimenez says even if inmates are granted a virtual hearing, posting bond poses an entirely new slew of challenges.
"Imagine having to fight for bond, and then not having the money to post the bond, because you know it's just way too high,” says Jimenez.
News 12 is told Bonds can be set at up to $50,000, but they can't be paid in New York because the offices are closed.
"We have heard of family members that go to New Jersey because the New Jersey bond office is still open,” says Jimenez.
As for families who can’t make the trip, News 12 is told their time to post bond may run out.
"To be finally given bond, and then for in two days later have [it] taken away,” says Jimenez.
News 12 is told ICE has evaluated their population to see who is at higher risk for severe illness and therefore possible release, and that about 900 individuals have been let go.
"I don't believe people should be putting a price on someone's life, especially now during a pandemic,” says Jimenez,
A belief that keeps Jimenez, and so many others, continuing the fight for release.