Last weekend, dozens of protestors gathered in their cars outside of Karnes County Residential Center — an immigrant family detention facility in Texas — to draw attention to the renewed policy of family separation ICE has started pushing on detained immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although demonstrations are inherently limited during the age of social distancing, protestors used their car horns and stood six feet apart from each other as they voiced their concerns about this impossibly cruel policy.
The protest is still going strong.
It comes after reports that ICE gave detained families the choice of either releasing their children to sponsors — separating them from parents & sparking fears the parents could be deported alone — or staying detained w/ them amid the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/9qzk3qKFib
— Silvia Foster-Frau (@SilviaElenaFF) May 16, 2020
With systemic medical neglect and underfunded, unhygienic facilities, ICE detention centers have always been hotspots for disease and infection. The government’s refusal to provide essential healthcare and follow its own guidance in social distancing has created a crisis within a crisis, as the virus infects detained immigrants at an alarming rate. As many as half of all tested immigrants in some detention centers have tested positive. Many advocate groups have called on ICE to release immigrants from detention, particularly families with young children. Instead of enacting these basic, humane policies, last week ICE reportedly started circulating a form to families that are detained, presenting parents with an impossibly hard choice.
ICE’s new policy would allow immigrant children to be released from detention without their parents, forcing them to separate from their families in the midst of a major pandemic. Children who are released would live with other family members, sponsors, or be placed in federal custody while their parents remain immigration detention. The only alternative would result in children remaining in detention indefinitely, risking exposure to the virus as new waves of infections grow worse every day in these facilities.
Outraged by this remarkably cruel development, advocates throughout the country are speaking out against this new of policy family separation and demanding the release of all families in detention:
— Texas Refugee and Immigrant Network (@txsmigrants) May 16, 2020
In the midst of a pandemic ICE has decided to embrace indefinite detention and family separation.
Hundreds of parents today were told to give up their infants, toddlers, and young children. Potentially to never see those babies again. Or never leave jail.
This is your Gov’t.
— Bridget Cambria (@BridgetCambria8) May 14, 2020
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) May 15, 2020
URGENT: ICE is implementing a terrible policy often called Family Separation 2.0 or Binary Choice, which will result in family separation or the indefinite detention of children. Join us tomorrow at the Karnes Family Detention Center at 3 PM to speak out https://t.co/YNWlhExUSk
— SA Stands (@SA_Stands) May 15, 2020