Due to the threats of COVID-19, since February, the No More Deaths Keep Tucson Together Legal Clinic has focused its efforts on preparing humanitarian parole requests and motions for bonds for more than 50 of our clients detained at La Palma, Eloy & Florence, AZ ICE detention facilities. Court dates are set and then cancelled, re-set and then cancelled. Meanwhile, precautions against the spread of the pandemic in cramped detention centers are abysmal. There is no soap in sinks, no access to gloves, and detained women and men just receive two face masks each – only after signing waivers of liability for the masks. Under these conditions, it is no surprise that more people are becoming infected with COVID-19. As of this writing, ICE acknowledges 69 known “positive” cases of COVID-19 at the La Palma facility alone.
Recently, at an La Palma detention center in Eloy, detainees blocked the doors to their “pod” with tables and chairs, demanding masks, gloves, hand soap and testing. In response, the officers from CoreCivic – the for-profit company that operates many detention centers – broke through and shot them with rubber bullets and sprayed them with tear gas. As this violence demonstrates, detained men and women are not safe in ICE custody. No More Deaths, along with Amnesty International and others, have called for the release of all ICE detainees during this pandemic, and we have been working hard to secure the release of these individuals.
On May 1st, our legal team was able to secure four bond hearings; three of our brothers were granted bonds and one was continued. One of those released is an 18-year old high school senior, who has never been in detention before, and had his bond set at $9,000. Detention was horrific for this young man. Another of the three released tested positive for COVID and has been quarantining since release. As of this writing, we have been able to get nine detainees out since February and back to their families, and hope to get more out soon.
What is clear is that the government’s policy of denying all petitions for humanitarian paroles and continuing bond hearings, not providing masks, gloves, soap and testing are all purposeful and orchestrated forms of mass negligence, not just coincidental incidents of chaos. There can be no doubt that the United States is executing a policy of detention = death. The No More Deaths/ Keep Tucson Together Clinic will continue to shine the light on these deadly practices and to do everything in our power to secure freedom and life for our sisters and brothers in detention. If you are able, please consider making a generous donation to the No More Deaths Keep Tucson Together Bond Fund at bit.ly/nmdbond. We are committed to doing everything we can to leave no one behind to die alone in detention.
Article by Margo Cowan, volunteer, Keep Tucson Together