CA ICE Detention Centers Could Turn into COVID-19 ‘Death Camps,’ Warn Capitol Car Protestors

By Crescenzo Vellucci
Sacramento Vanguard Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO – COVID-19 could soon turn immigrant detention centers in California into “death camps,” warned more than 100 immigrant advocates tucked inside 50-placard emblazoned vehicles Tuesday as they circled the State Capitol as part of a multi-city, car-based direct action calling on the governor to free immigrants from the ICE centers.

The advocates cruised through Sacramento around noon, horns blaring, driving by the closed Capitol and ICE building on Capitol Mall – braving a “stay-at-home” order to pressure Gov. Newsom and other public officials to use their emergency powers to close California detention centers.

Similar protests were held in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego Tuesday.

The Sacramento car-protest was organized Jewish Action NorCal and Never Again Action Sacramento, with a coalition of allies, advocates, and activists from Indivisible Yolo, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement – Sacramento AFL-CIO, Florin Japan American Citizens League, NAA San Francisco Bay Area, NAA Los Angeles and Otay Mesa Detention Resistance.

They said their goal was to call attention to the danger detained immigrants and incarcerated people face as coronavirus spreads, because the “deadly potential of a COVID-19 outbreak in detention facilities” has been ignored by authorities, “especially as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”

“We know that Anne Frank didn’t die in the gas chambers, but she died of a communicable disease in the crowded and dirty conditions of a detention center,” charged Sam Tunick, an organizer with Never Again Action Bay Area. “We don’t want to see history repeated – we are doing what we wish bystanders during the Holocaust had done for our ancestors.”

Protestors risked potential legal penalties for traveling while a Shelter in Place order is in effect – it requires only “essential” travel.

But the caravan-goers Tuesday said they were willing to risk fines or jail to do an “essential” service of lobbying government about the “grave and immediate danger faced by migrants in detention centers and being transferred to ICE custody.”

More than 52,000 migrants, nearly 6,000 of them in California, are held in detention facilities in the US.

Never Again Action released the following statement when the group formed in summer 2019:
“As Jews, our history has taught us what happens when people do nothing; we are heeding the message of our ancestors when we say #NeverAgainIsNow.”

In this time of global health crisis, the group adds that “inaction alone will kill thousands.”

“With several California Jewish Activist organizations leading a coordinated, four city statewide rally here in Sacramento, in LA, SD, and SF, we honk our horns collectively in a huge statement of California’s solidarity with the people wrongly detained by ICE, which has acted like a new Gestapo through their hateful and harmful tactics and treatment of non-white skinned immigrants,” said Greg Brucker, one of the Sacramento organizers.

“As Jews, when as we reflect on the horrors of Nazi Germany, we say ‘Never Again’ with respect to genocide and the widespread imprisonment of any people for who they are, and we mean it. Never Again for Anyone, Anywhere, and we must stand up now, for, with the grave threat that is COVID-19, we recognize that without action now by local, state, and federal leaders, detention facilities will become death camps,” he added.

“We have already seen ICE place COVID-19 positive immigrants back into the ICE camps general population in NJ, and in Rikers in NY, there are reported over 300 people with the virus. Without release of people from these detention facilities, more people will die…we must rise and speak for them, as we as Jews hope that people would speak out for us,” Brucker added.

He explained that advocates believe what they did Tuesday – challenging the “essential only” travel ban – was, in fact, “essential,” because they are trying to “peacefully help save lives and protect people by giving a voice to those that don’t have a voice…if we don’t stand up for them, no one else will. This is essential…to make sure that no one is left behind due to the pandemic that is COVID-19.”

Japanese Americans, the victims of concentration camp detentions a generation ago, were blunt in the belief that detention centers should be emptied.

“Japanese Americans were not only imprisoned due to racist policies during WWII, but over 1,800 died in the camps from infectious diseases like typhoid fever, smallpox, whooping cough, flue, diphtheria and tuberculosis due to the overcrowding,” said Josh Kaizuka, co-president Florin JACL-Sacramento Valley/Sacramento Tsuru for Solidarity.

“What is happening today is a repetition of the trauma experienced by our former incarcerees, their families and descendants. We cannot stand by and be complicit by being silent,” he added.

Rhonda Rios Kravitz, Dean Emerita, Sacramento City College and CEO of Alianza, confided that the virus may already be at Yuba County jail where ICE detainees are being held.

“The immigrants inside Yuba Jail are not safe. Visits were suspended two weeks ago, and detainees are trapped in close quarters and unable to protect themselves if the coronavirus was to get into the jail,” she said, adding that “there are sick people there, and no way to find out if COVID-19 is the cause.

“COVID-19 is a very serious threat in prisons and jails. Detention facilities do not have the capacity to ensure the necessary physical distancing, hygiene and disinfection to prevent or control COVID-19 as has been demonstrated by recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses, such as mumps, influenza and varicella, which have spread through immigration detention facilities,” she said.

“The continued immigration enforcement and detention of more than 6,000 immigrants in California’s ICE detention centers puts immigrants’ lives at risk as well as all employees working in these facilities. Gov. Newsom should immediately use his emergency powers to release all immigrants from the detention centers in California,” Rio Kravitz said.

Court Wednesday Orders Hundreds Released from Sacramento County Jails to Prevent COVID-19 Breakout

Early Release of Some Sacramento County Jail Inmates Urged for Safety of Residents, Jailers and Prisoners

To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9


Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$USD
Sign up for

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

47 Comments

  1. Keith Olsen

     braving a “stay-at-home” order 

    They’re so courageous.

    Anne Frank 

    we are doing what we wish bystanders during the Holocaust had done for our ancestors.

    Japanese Americans were not only imprisoned due to racist policies during WWII

    A little over the top hyperbole, ya think?

    But the caravan-goers Tuesday said they were willing to risk fines or jail to do an “essential” service of lobbying government about the “grave and immediate danger faced by migrants in detention centers and being transferred to ICE custody.”

    All they had to do is tell the cops they were out shopping for toilet paper.

  2. Ron Glick

    “A little over the top hyperbole, ya think?”

    No I don’t think.  If people are going to die in custody we as a nation become responsible for their deaths. There is going to be more than enough death. If we can take actions to prevent death by releasing non violent detainees we should do so.

    “We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,We died in your valleys and died on your plains.We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,Both sides of the river, we died just the same.”

    Woody Guthrie

     

  3. Alan Miller

    The advocates cruised through Sacramento around Noon, horns blaring,

    Sounds like the same technique the anti-vaxxers were using a few short weeks ago (not much sympathy for anti-vaxxers these days I’m guessing).  Also, the car looks similar to the anti-abortion protest vehicles that drive around the capitol building.  Pardon my cynicism – working (normally) adjacent to the Capitol for two decades, the daily parade of every stripe and style of protest begins to resemble a blurry tide of blended clown acts.

    driving by the closed Capitol and ICE building on Capitol Mall

    But, why?  What purpose protesting to no one at closed buildings?

    1. Ron Glick

      Like back in the 70’s when loggers opposed to the expansion of Redwood National Park took a log truck convoy from Humboldt County to D.C. carrying a poorly carved redwood log dubbed the Redwood Peanut and drove around trying to give it to the peanut farmer president. Now that was great political theatre.

      Sometimes people protest in ways that are less than optimal. At least in this case they did so because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control. When pro-life or anti-vaxxers were engaging in this type of behavior the world around them wasn’t in a pandemic lockdown.

      I’m glad these people are trying to do something to help people being held in dangerous conditions.

  4. Alan Miller

    Japanese Americans, the victims of concentration camp detentions a generation ago, were blunt in the belief that detention centers should be emptied.

    All Japanese Americans?

    As Jews,

    All Jews?

    1. Keith Olsen

      Citizens of the U.S. were blunt in the belief that ICE centers and jails should still detain their populations in the name of law and order.

      I didn’t say “all”

  5. Alan Miller

     . . .  that detention centers should be emptied.

    Emptied?  Emptied to where?  Back to Mexico?  To our cities with no housing for existing residents?   To wander in a pandemic lockdown after having just crossed an international border?

    Any concentration of people is a threatening situation today.  Should we also “empty” all our nursing homes and assisted living facilities?

    1. Tia Will

      Alan

      These are not unreasonable questions. I would like to propose some solutions:

      1. For those who were living with family or sponsors, they could be tested and if negative, returned to their previous housing.

      2. To those with nowhere to go, they could be housed in hotel/motel rooms as is being arranged for many who are living unsheltered.

      3. For residents of assisted living facilities, they could likewise be temporarily housed with family members ( who are now staying home) and or in hotel/motel rooms with an attendant as needed.

      There are safer practices than jail and detention centers and I believe we should be making use of them. Even moving out some to safer settings would make the dorm-like settings in which many are housed safer by lowering the census thus allowing for more social distancing.

      1. Bill Marshall

        2. To those with nowhere to go, they could be housed in hotel/motel rooms as is being arranged for many who are living unsheltered.

        Hope that is true… suspect the word “many” is misplaced… perhaps ‘some’…

        But the sentiment that it SHOULD be happening, for all, including those ‘on the streets’, I agree with, in principle… but gets to ‘who pays’ for that… gov’t?  If not, as private citizens, we would pledge $500 towards that effort, if there was a bona fide group willing to take that on… will you match our pledge?

      2. Bill Marshall

        3. For residents of assisted living facilities, they could likewise be temporarily housed with family members ( who are now staying home) and or in hotel/motel rooms with an attendant as needed.

        I opine, they are safer where they are… the costs of hotel/motel rooms, attendants, and likelihood for hotels/motels to be less “safe” from transmission, concerns me.

        Same for going to relatives housing… except as to cost… risk of transmission would still be greater…

        But what do I know? Just an Engineer, not a Physician…

    2. Bill Marshall

      Should we also “empty” all our nursing homes and assisted living facilities?

      No… they are ‘sheltered in place’, no visitors, even families, and unlike others, probably have access to medical care, if needed… we know of at least a dozen, who are much safer in those facilities, than elsewhere…

  6. Alan Miller

    DG seems obsessed today with my lack of a point.  This really surprises me, because I am a Conehead. We all have a point.

    But seriously folks.  It’s not that all of these ideas are bad ones, as such.  What I find most annoying is all instances, here and elsewhere, of people using the Coronavirus Emergency as an excuse to advance specific political agendas, in this case in the area of border/immigration policy.  In another article, on justice reform.

    As national policy, we are not even trying to save individuals now.  We are instituting policy to keep from overwhelming the medical system, so that many persons do not die needlessly for lack of medical care, supplies and equipment.  Best if political agendas are set aside for the time being.

    1. David Greenwald

      “ What I find most annoying is all instances, here and elsewhere, of people using the Coronavirus Emergency as an excuse to advance specific political agendas, in this case in the area of border/immigration policy.  In another article, on justice reform.”

      I appreciate your point.  Naturally I view it differently.  The way I see it is that coronavirus exacerbates an existing problem in the system – whether it is the over-incarceration of society or the poorly thought out immigrant detention system.  What was a problem before, becomes catastrophic now because you have a large number of people, confined space, many at risk and a substandard health care.  Add that up – a lot of people could very well end up dying and this becomes another Katrina.

      1. Alan Miller

        Fair enough.  I don’t see it probably from the same perspective, but I do agree the system is long broken and people ending up in the camps is the symptom of this ‘broken-ness’.

      2. Ron Glick

        This is already worse than Katrina. Its worse than 9-11 and Katrina combined. At this rate its going to be Vietnam soon enough. If we can save lives by letting people out who are not violent we should do so. Politics and political agendas be damned. Our first and main priority right now should be health and safety.

        1. Keith Olsen

          Do you know what so far is worse than 9-11 and Katrina combined and let’s add in COVID 19?

          This year’s flu season.

          38,000,000 – 54,000,000 flu illnesses

          18,000,000 – 26,000,000 flu medical visits

          400,000 – 730,000 flu hospitalizations

          24,000 – 62,000 flu deaths

          1. David Greenwald

            The question is what’s the point of your comment when even the most conservative projections have it well surpassing all of those numbers? Decisions can’t be based on the now, they have to be based on reasonable projections for the future.

        2. Keith Olsen

          what’s the point of your comment 

          The point is we already have the flu season which has far surpassed “9-11 and Katrina combined” but nobody has ever sounded that alarm.

           

        3. Keith Olsen

          I didn’t read in your article where they called the flu season a Katrina or were advocating for clearing out jails and ICE detention centers calling them possible “death camps”.

          1. David Greenwald

            Because I don’t think the threat from the flu in prisons and jails is nearly as accute as it is from COVID-19

        4. Mark West

          The numbers that Keith posted are from the CDC and represent their projections for the influenza season that ended two days ago. They are an estimate, not numbers of actual cases. Even so, we can see that the projected mortality rate for this season’s flu was in the range of 0.04%-0.11% (deaths/illnesses). The projected mortality rate for Covid19 is an order of magnitude greater.

        5. Alan Miller

          what’s the point of your comment

          In case you haven’t noticed, KO, DG’s new thing with you and I is to ask us what the point of our comment is.

          I often wonder what the point of the article is.

          1. Moderator

            In case you haven’t noticed, KO, DG’s new thing with you and I is to ask us what the point of our comment is.

            I suggest you have a point to your comments and make it clear.

  7. John Hobbs

    What is the acceptable number of US deaths from Covid 19 Keith? Should we just let it run its baleful course? Maybe you’d prefer for those in jails to die and save you some taxes? Do you have some secret method of protecting the Corrections officers and staff and containing the virus inside the jails? Please elaborate if so.

  8. Bill Marshall

    Informed guesstimates, based on a model of a poorly characterized virus… comparison to major events that have little or nothing to do with the current virus.

    Would be nice if folk could focus on real threats (and the current strain of coronavirus, aka covid-19, is real, and a threat) and reasonable ways to prevent the spread/morbidity/mortality… but no… folk like to play with numbers… whatever… might be a coping mechanism…

    Maybe we can consider how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    There will be lots of time and opportunities to “do the numbers” when the crisis is over (except for those folk who believe we’re dealing with ‘end of time’ issues)…

    In the meantime, can we focus on the threat and how we can avoid/mitigate that?

  9. Ron Glick

    “This year’s flu season.”

    The Spanish flu of 1918-1919 is likely a better comparison. It killed tens of millions when there was only around 1 billion people on earth. Today there are 7.5 billion. If left unchecked a virus of that magnitude today would kill hundreds of millions world wide.

    When was the last time the World Health Organization declared a pandemic? I can’t recall it ever happening in my lifetime. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

     

  10. Ron Glick

    1918 50 million dead world wide 675,000 in US

    1957 1.1 million dead world wide 116,000 US

    1968 1 million dead 100,000 world wide US

    2009 CDC estimates between 150,000-675000 world wide deaths 12469 US.

    Past performance is no guarantee of future returns but I’m into erring on the side of caution with Covid-19.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Yes… prudence, but not panic or hyperbole…

      BTW… hope people understand the mechanics of the no more than 10 people “together” thing… that is actually cumulative… over, potentially, days… in terms of the ‘Brown Act’, that’s pretty much a ‘serial gathering’… particularly if someone is asymptomatic…

  11. Alan Miller

    Interesting that the Trump House just declared that the public should voluntarily now wear masks in grocery stores and similar public spaces.  It actually does help stop the spread, because they now think the droplets from breathing/talking are the main spread, and even a cloth mask or bandanna helps greatly in stemming the tide.

    This is fascinating, as a week or so ago someone here (V. comments) was ridiculing a certain ‘race’ for snatching up all the masks — this at a time when people were being shamed for wearing masks.  I soon went to Safeway, and every Asian student there had a mask on, and no one else (one white guy, OK).  So I got curious and looked this up.  Turns out there are two reasons for this:

    1. Many Asians (Chinese specifically) or their parents lived through a previous, more-regional pandemic where many died, and were told to wear masks.  It is a conditioned, cultural thing to do so in these circumstances.

    2. Most Asian doctors, unlike in the west, now actually do recommend that people wear masks, to avoid the spread, exactly what the Trump House is now saying.

    Some are now accusing that the previous ask not to wear masks so medical personal would have enough was a bit of a bend of the truth – medical personnel did need them, but ‘they’ told us that it didn’t help the public, because of the shortage brought on by a combination of lack of preparation for a pandemic, hoarding, and the Chinese gov’t confiscating masks from ‘US’ mask manufacturers in China, creating a US shortage.

    Turns out the Chinese people we saw ‘snatching up all the masks’ were actually being considerate to all of us (since is more about not spreading it), and we were the suckers, a-holes and fools.   And the Chinese doctors were ‘ahead of us/US’.

    [Note:  this is my compilation from reading a variety of articles on the subject plus today’s news – I’m happy to receive corrections.  I joke around a lot.  This ain’t no joke.]

    1. Bill Marshall

      Three thoughts…

      Should have not used the word “snatched” (think I previously apologized for that, but if not, do so now)…

      Alan is correct as to cultural/historical practical context… which I thought I had pointed out… but also in some areas, to protect from air pollution… just look @ photos from the 2008 Beijing/China Olympics…

      Our daughter, who is a neo-natal dietician in a major Childrens’ Hospital, ran out of masks several weeks ago… that has been resolving in the last week or two… now they are required to wear face shields, as well…

      Alan is correct… this ain’t no joke… it is real, it is important, and we need to be prudent, do what we can, to avoid/mitigate risks… spouse and many others have been sewing/preparing masks, based on ‘sewing networks’… many the same folk who sew/quilt for Project Linus… and other similar groups… but still, no time for panic.

      No joke here, either… dead dog serious…

      1. Alan Miller

        BTW, I wasn’t critical of your original comment (‘snatched up’ maybe not the best way to put it, apology welcome), that was DG.  I thought you made a keen observation on racial differences that was blatantly obvious.  I got curious why this was, because of your comment, and learned some very important information re: what eastern medicine believes, and I’m just as apt to believe one as another . . . information now being trumpeted by the Trump House.  So, thanks. 

        (There’s a big difference between racial and racist.)

        1. Bill Marshall

          Tres bien! Acknowledged… it was observational, not judgemental.

          There’s a big difference between racial and racist.

          And, cultural… Chinese, Korean, Japanese, (pick your Asian country) [or any other area] all have sometimes VERY different cultural roots/beliefs… based on my personal experience, and readings…  and those born here in the USA, grew up here, kept some of those cultural things, and not others…

          Lumping any group is stupid/ill-informed, often incorrect, and inherently ‘dangerous’… just saying… often, the ‘grouping’ is wrong, by generation, where they were born, where they grew up… ex.  Suspect a 2nd generation Chinese-American (or any group) is quite different, culturally, from a Chinese (or any group) student who is the first in their generation in the US.

    2. Bill Marshall

      BTW… there are seriously dangerous “trolls” out there… remember the character in “Little Orphan Annie” cartoons?  Daddy Warbucks? He made a fortune from WWII… by taking advantage of a crisis.

      Corporations (some) and private parties (many) are trying to “score” off current shortages… that is REAL, too… maybe we need a new term:  “Sadly Covidbucks”…

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for