Administration

Over 100 immigrants detained in California staging hunger strike

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More than 100 immigrants detained at the Mesa Verde Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center in California are staging a hunger strike and sit-in asking for their release amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The strike began this Thursday with about 80 people and increased to more than a hundred after a court decision Thursday, according to Centro Legal de la Raza, a legal aid group in California. ICE did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the release of two detainees at the Mesa Verde due to the threat of infection, writing that none of “none of these [individuals] is in a position to meaningfully limit his exposure to COVID-19 while at Yuba or Mesa Verde.” The judge’s decision follows several other federal judges who have ruled in favor of detainees who have already tested positive for COVID-19.

The court’s decision comes as advocacy groups have called for the temporary release of prisoners and immigration detainees during the pandemic. California is planning to release as many as 3,500 nonviolent inmates, and New York City has released 900.

ICE has come under pressure in recent weeks to release people in custody so they can abide by social distancing guidelines and protect themselves from the virus.

“This decision is an important step,” William Freeman, an attorney at the ACLU of Northern California said in a statement. “The stakes for the release of detained persons are at an all-time high as the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak places them at an elevated risk of serious ailments or death.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on Friday announced legislation that calls for immigrants to be removed from detention facilities and for a halt on immigration enforcement during the pandemic.

Tags Coronavirus Cory Booker ICE Pramila Jayapal

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