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Immigrant Rights Organizations, Directly Impacted Individuals Speak on Use of Toxic Chemical Disinfectants at ICE Prisons

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CFIR member Arnie Carter with DACAmented leaders and their families in front of the Colorado State Capitol. Colorado passed a bill this year. Photo: / AFSC

Media Briefing: Audio Recording

Nationwide –  On Tuesday June 23, Inland Coalition For Immigrant Justice, For Freedom for Immigrants, Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees, American Friends Service Committee (Colorado), La Resistencia (Washington), and directly impacted voices from inside GEO owned Detention facilities denounced the dire situation hitting the  limelight about ICE and GEO’s use of toxic chemical disinfectants. Aside from the dangerous side effects that these harmful chemicals are causing people held by ICE, they are also experiencing retaliation for speaking out. 

A letter outlining these violations was sent in May to the Inspector General Department of Homeland Security, Joseph V. Cuffari in regards to reports of Chemical Use on detainees inside detention centers. In response Rep. Juan Vargas (CA) led a sign on letter and has been joined by Rep. Mark Takano (CA), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Adriano Espaillat (NY), Joe Neguse (CO) and Jason Crow (CO) among 35 others as well as endorsed by the organizations that led this press briefing.  

Quotes from the media briefing:

Sarah Gardner, Policy Director, Freedom for Immigrants:

“Since March 23, Freedom for Immigrants has tracked ICE's failed response to COVID-19. We have documented 117 calls to our hotline from people in ICE detention regarding medical negligence to COVID19 symptoms and adequate sanitization.

Lizbeth Abeln, Program manager, Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice:

“ICE is retaliating against people inside because they are outspoken about the conditions and they fear for their lives. People detained are subject to retaliatory lockdowns, where they are forced to be in enclosed spaces without access to phones, attorneys and showers.” 

Wendy King, Executive Director, Friends Of Miami Dade Detainees 

“No one is safe in Ice Custody and ICE prisons are a public health risk and the only way to keep people safe is to release them.” 

Jordan Garcia, American Friends Service Committee Colorado:

“At the Geo Detention in Aurora, Colorado we know that ICE and GEO are fumigating  at least one pod twice a day. That's causing major swelling, frequent nose bleeding and causing respiratory distress.We also know ICE placed a COVID positive individual into the general population, exposing dozens of other people detained there and resulting in a whole pod being quarantined.”

Maru Mora Villapando, La Resistencia Tacoma WA:

“Just this year we have seen four hunger strikes including a workers stoppage.  Retaliation is ongoing as Ricardo from Mexico told us, “I’d rather not appeal my case. I'm afraid of dying here from COVID19 while waiting, but now we have to experience these further illnesses and retaliation.”  

Background: Last month both the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ) and Freedom for Immigrants began to receive a series of distressing calls from people detained at the Adelanto Detention Center in California. Callers described how a powerful chemical disinfectant called HDQ Neutral is causing bloody noses, nausea, and difficulty breathing. Similar reports of chemical disinfectants causing adverse medical reactions have now been reported at immigrant prisons across the country, including at the Glades County Jail in Florida, the for-profit GEO Detention Facility in Aurora, Colorado, and Northwest Detention Center in Washington.  

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.

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