Requesting the immediate release of immigrants in ICE custody in Florida

April 3, 2020

Dear Members of the Florida Delegation to the 116th United States Congress, 

We are writing to request that you publicly demand the immediate release of detained immigrants under ICE custody in light of the growing public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Conditions in Florida’s immigration detention centers make the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak imminent at Krome Service Processing Center (Krome) in Miami, Florida, Broward Transitional Center (BTC) in Pompano Beach, Florida, and Glades County Jail (Glades) in Moore Haven, Florida. People will die as a result. Those locked up in detention are already extremely vulnerable to the spread of infectious disease due to their deprivation of liberty, physical proximity to others, and ICE’s horrendous track record of inadequate medical care in custody. Ten people have died in ICE custody this fiscal year, even before the coronavirus outbreak. Every day that immigrants remain detained poses a serious threat to their safety. 

ICE holds total discretion about who may be released and when. It is completely within their power to release all immigrants in their custody, beginning with those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. We ask that you demand they do so immediately, before detention camps become death camps. 

While lawyers report a real struggle getting actual information from the facilities, especially since visitors are now banned and phone calls are restricted, we can attest that conditions are worsening: 

● People detained at all three detention centers report that there are positive cases of COVID-19. The symptoms they are witnessing are consistent with COVID-19-coughs, chills, fevers, and other symptoms–even though ICE continues to deny that there are positive cases of COVID-19 in these facilities. Detained individuals say those who are sick have received minimal to no medical treatment. We have heard reports of people being taken into quarantine at all three detention centers. On March 30, for instance, we heard that a man was taken to medical and staff came into the dorm to pack up his belongings wearing gloves and masks. That same day, court was shut down at Krome “for deep sanitation,” and detained individuals say that it was because three people tested positive for the virus. All of this is inconsistent with ICE’s official statements that there are no cases of COVID-19.

 

● Balking public health recommendations for social isolation to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ICE indiscriminately transfers people from Krome to other detention centers during this pandemic. On March 26, people detained at BTC wrote a letter with 11 pages of signatures, detailing the conditions and noting that “ICE still brings new detainees to this facility on a daily basis without administering proper tests or checks but simply a temperature check, knowing full well that not every individual will display the common symptoms.” On April 1, FOMDD received reports of 20 new individuals being brought to Glades. Transferred individuals are not being properly screened upon arrival (they merely have their temperature checked, despite the likelihood of COVID-19 carriers being asymptomatic). Guards appear concerned as well: FOMDD has heard that they are reluctant to report to work for fear they will not be allowed to leave and for their own well-being and safety. 

● BTC was without water for five hours on March 17, and Glades has run out of basic toiletries, hygiene products, and medicine. A man detained at Glades reported on April 2 that the facility has run out of all antibiotics and all medicine for colds, pain, and diabetes and will not receive a new supply for at least seven days. On March 29, a man detained at Glades reported that the facility was out of toothpaste. On March 30, a man from Glades reported that requests for hand sanitizer were repeatedly denied. 

● Detained immigrants have also reported concerns that Glades is running out of food. They are concerned because during this public health crisis they have no access to nutritious food like fruit. In late March, the facility was serving liquid meals such as watered-down vegetable purees. Those detained at Glades report that it does not even look like food and that “pets eat better than we do.” 

● Feeling like they are “sitting ducks” awaiting a public health catastrophe, people have gone on hunger strikes at Glades, Krome, and BTC.

● Strategies for mitigating the spread of the virus have been inadequate and misinformed to the point of verging on bizarre. For instance, at Krome, all those at high risk of COVID-19– over 70 detainees who are elderly or have chronic medical issues–are being housed together in Pod 1, sleeping on cots and even on the floor. The only screening they receive is to have their temperatures taken once per day. Precautions have not otherwise been heightened as there is no increased access to hygiene products. 

● No detained individuals at any of the three facilities have been provided extra soap, extra cleaning supplies, or hand sanitizer, let alone masks, despite confirmed positive cases inside the facilities. 

● There is no such thing as social distancing in immigration detention. People at Glades County Jail are housed with 96 people per pod, sleeping in bunks and spending

most of the day in a single common area. At Krome, over 65 people share a single pod. At BTC, a former hotel, six people share one cell. At Krome and Glades, dozens of people share toilets and showers. This is an ideal breeding ground for an infectious disease such as COVID-19.

● The quarantines in place result in a large number of individuals being placed together in a crowded and cramped area without space necessary for social distancing. This is a dangerous situation, which not only puts these detained persons at risk, but by exacerbating the spread of the virus, creates a dire public safety issue for everyone.

● People in all three detention centers are scared for their lives. They know how slowly staff respond to their medical complaints on a typical day–without the threat of coronavirus–and how ineffective the medical treatments are even when they are provided. This has also been documented by sources such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which notes that at Glades “there is only one doctor at the facility and that doctor is only available four days a week.” Even on a typical day, ICE detention facilities nationwide are ridden with substandard medical care and sanitary conditions. South Florida detention facilities frequently conduct inadequate health screenings, rely on untrained medical care providers and provide insufficient staffing, and delay and deny care and medication.

Those detained at BTC, Krome, and Glades are asking to be released for their own safety. There is no possible way for any of these facilities to safely house this number of people during a health pandemic such as this. ICE must act now or be faced with a wave of illness and death in their custody. We ask that you take a public stand in demanding that they do so immediately.

Sincerely,

Friends of Miami Dade Detainees
United We Dream
Florida Immigrant Coalition 
Redland Christian Migrant Association
Faith in Florida
Farmworker Association of Florida
Hope Community Center
Miami Workers Center
We Count!
New Florida Majority
Family Action Network Movement (FANM)
Florida Student Power Network
Hope Community Center
Palm Beach Community Coalition for Immigrant Rights
UNITE HERE Local 737
SEIU FPSU
Organize Florida
Central Florida Jobs with Justice
Dream Defenders
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Rights

On Friday, March 13th, 2020, ICE announced it was suspending visitation at all ICE detention centers nationwide. We are very concerned for our friends in detention, who are now even more isolated from our community of visitors, and who are still at great risk of getting sick due to being imprisoned in close-quarters with so many other people.

It’s critical that we stay in touch with our friends in detention during this time to offer moral support, monitor conditions, report abuses and provide a link to legal help with our partners at Americans for Immigrant Justice. We are also continuing to provide phone time to anyone who needs it so they can check-in with their family and friends during this crisis.

“We are all scared,” one person in detention said. “We aren’t being told anything other than that it’s for our own safety.”

Unfortunately, everything about being in detention is expensive, from the price of phone calls (45 cents per minute at Glades county jail) to the fee to send a single text message to someone inside (25 cents per message). Please consider donating what you would have spent on gas if you were able to physically visit, or host a Facebook fundraiser for this important need!

FOMDD Leaders Bud Conlin and Wendy King barred from visiting at Krome immigrant prison

As you may have heard, ICE officials have banned both Bud Conlin and Wendy King from visiting with people detained at Krome Detention Center in Miami, with no explanation. Bud was denied entry for his two scheduled visits on January 9th, 2020. Wendy was notified she was banned via email one week later, on January 16th, 2020.

Banning visitors and organization leaders has become a disturbing trend in recent months, as visitation programs throughout the south have experienced total and individual bans by ICE.

Fortunately, FOMDD is bigger than just two people. We are a whole community of people dedicated to loving and protecting our neighbors, and will continue showing up week in and week out to visit with our friends in detention while we fight this unconstitutional ban with our partners at Freedom for Immigrants, Florida Immigrant Coalition and United We Dream.

Rep. Cindy Polo presents Miramar Circle of Protection with Proclamation

On Wednesday, October 30th, 2019, Representative Cindy Polo presented the Miramar Circle of Protection with a Proclamation acknowledging their two years of work supporting immigrant families forced to check in at the Miramar ICE office.

“WHEREAS, established in 2017, the Miramar Circle of Protection is a coalition of grassroots organization committed to amplift immigrant voices and dedicated to supporting immigrant families and raising awareness about the struggles of immigrant families as they abide by the law and navigate the immigration process in the United States, and

WHEREAS, every Wednesday, the Circle of Protection visits the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Miramar, Florida, to provide resources to immigrant families waiting in line for monthly check-in sessions, and

WHEREAS, the Circle of Protection continually provides support for immigrant families by facilitating child supervision and providing food and water while parents or guardians wait in line for countless hours at the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, and

WHEREAS, the Circle of Protection is an asset to the immigrant community by ensuring that local elected officials and the public are informed regarding the conditions at the United States Immigration and and Customs Enforcement facility and advocating for better accommodations and amenities at the facility, NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESPECTFULLY PROCLAIMED that in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the volunteers of the Miramar Circle of Protection are acknowledged for their hard work, dedication, bravery, and relentless fight for social justice.”

Cindy Polo
Representative, District 103

“Shine a Light” Campaign Update – “We prevailed!”

After being banned from visiting people behind bars at Krome immigrant prison for more than a year, FOMDD Chair Bud Conlin and Thomas Kennedy, Political Director for Florida Immigrant Coalition, have finally been reinstated as visitors!

ICE banned Bud and Thomas from visiting at Krome shortly after they participated in a peaceful civil disobedience action outside the ICE Miramar office on July 18th, 2018.

More than a year later, the Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to Freedom for Immigrants, who had filed a complaint on behalf of Bud and Thomas, advising that ICE should not ban individuals from visiting those in immigrant prison just for exercising their first amendment right of free speech.

This is a huge win for the Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees visitation program, as well as other visitation groups and individuals who may face retaliation for speaking out against ICE abuses and prison conditions!

9/26/2019 – Bud’s first visit at Krome in over a year, after being reinstated.

“My Visit to Krome Detention Center”

by Meagan Gross

In this short blog post, activist Meagan Gross describes her first visit to Krome immigrant prison on June 30th, 2019.

When I decided to recreate my website and online presence, I didn’t think my first public blog would be about visiting a prison. For a minute I considered not posting this on my blog and sticking to posting my experience on social media, at risk of clients seeing, but we’ve gotten to a point in this country where people need to speak up and show up. This means companies. If there are companies that have a problem withwhat I have to say, after visiting an ICE detention facility today, they’ve lost my interest in working with them.

A friend of mine, Wendy, works with Friends of Miami Dade Detainees. She invited myself and our friend Lindsay to join her for a visitation today at the ICE detention center an hour south of us. We met up at 6am, (yes, those who know me are in for a shock here) and drove down.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Wendy had paired us all with different inmates ahead of time. I was given a sheet that said my inmate’s name and country of origin. That’s it. That’s all I knew. We pulled up and were told we were too early and had to come back. (Yes, I know, I was early to something, another shock.)

So we waited outside until 7:30am. We drove up, they took our IDs, and asked us to pop open the trunk. One guard took a black stick with a mirror and wheels on the end of it and wheeled it all around Wendy’s car. I guess they were making sure we didn’t have anyone else with us.

We came in and went through security. Us three white women stood next to a Mexican woman with her young children. We were all here for the same reason, to visit someone on the inside, yet we were treated differently. Multiple times this woman was asked her immigration status. None of us were. She answered “US Citizen” with her head down.

When they called us in Lindsay and I had pens in our hand. (We were told we could write notes if we needed to) the guards didn’t let us in with them and we were instructed to go to a locker and leave the pens there. We went in and all took our seats in the visitation area and waited for our visitation to begin. Our visitors walked out and sat down. There were walls between us and a sheet of glass in between us and our detainees. The detainees arrived, and my assigned detainee sat down in front of me. He seemed very joyful, and excited to meet me. He sat down and our visitations began.

I’ve never visited a prison before, so to see these people, these human beings, come out in their red jumpsuits, was intense at first. His excitement helped to ease my anxiety. We will call him J. I’ll get back to my visit with J but first I want to share what my friend’s experiences were like.

Lindsay had an inmate that had children of similar age to hers. It was an emotional visit, as the man she was visiting told her his story. He came here from Jamaica and had a visa. He thought he did his paperwork correctly until he applied for a job and was arrested shortly after and detained. His children think he’s traveling for work, because he doesn’t want them to see him in these conditions.

Wendy visited a man from Somalia. He has a visa, is married to a US citizen and was detained for a reason unknown to him, shortly after the travel ban was issued and left for 48 hours in a plane with no air conditioning or bathrooms. He has missed the birth of his child while waiting for his court date.

Going back to J, the inmate I was visiting, he was excited because he was an accepted to a program that will allow him to get back on his feet, if ICE decides he can come out. He moved here from Sierra Leone, in Africa, when he was 12 years old and has never been back. Florida is his home. His family moved here to escape a civil war there. He had no say in the matter. I remember moving from Michigan to Florida at the same age, and making it very clear that it was not my decision. (Seriously, ask my dad, I didn’t speak to him for like a year). J is only a year or two older than me. So we talked a little about that. His family was able to get US citizenship, he was not because he had drug charges as a teenager.

J is locked up in this prison, and they are threatening to deport him to Africa because of weed! A continent where he no longer knows anyone, as his family has all migrated to the states, decades ago. I sat there in my privilege for a minute and it all hit me. I myself, had anxiety last night and took an edible to go to sleep. Never in my life have had the fear that something like that would get me locked up in a prison for years with the threat of being sent to an unknown and unsafe country. All because I was born in a different place than him.

I called my mom on the way home, who carried a green card my entire childhood. She got her citizenship and we both voted in our first election together in 2008. She came here from Ireland when she was 7 years old, for a similar reason to J. The “troubles” in Derry were getting worse and my Granny and Papa packed up and came to the states for a better life for their family. Their story is not much different from J’s, the ending is though.

The detention of immigrants in the United States is wrong and inhumane. We need to continue to share these stories of these people, both adults and children, to help Americans to better understand that these are human beings, living similar to you or I, until ICE comes knocking on their door one day to tear their families apart and ruin their lives. This is not okay.

What can you do to help? 

The organization I volunteered for today, FOMDD, is always looking for volunteers. If you are local to the Miami area, you can contact them to be approved to visit detainees. You may be the only human from the “outside world” that person gets to speak to in months. It’s very easy, and these people are happy to tell their stories and chat with you.

If you are not local to South FL, you can support this organization financially by sending a donation. The funds are used to provide legal assistance to detainees, put money in their phone banks so they can call their family and attorney, send books for them to read, and in their commissary so they can purchase food and toiletries.

https://www.meagangross.com/single-post/2019/06/30/End-ICEolation

Reverend John Guttermann Legacy Award

Freedom for Immigrants is excited to announce the presentation of the 2019 Reverend John Guttermann Legacy Award to Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees in Florida for their outstanding contribution this year to the detention visitation and abolition movement.

Freedom for Immigrants established this award in honor of Reverend John Guttermann, who passed away in December 2016 after a valiant fight with brain cancer. Rev. Guttermann was the founder of Conversations with Friends, a visitation program in Minnesota that was one of the first in the country, and a member of Freedom for Immigrants’ founding Leadership Council.

Each year, Freedom for Immigrants awards the Reverend John Guttermann Legacy Award to one or more outstanding visitation programs. Freedom for Immigrants presented the 2018 Rev. John Guttermann Legacy Award to First Friends, the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, and Sojourners as well as the 2017 Rev. John Guttermann Legacy Award to Conversations With Friends.

Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees (FOMDD) has been a volunteer-run organization for the past five years. Initially founded as a visitation program at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, over the years their work has expanded to include four initiatives. FOMDD supports the immediate needs of detained immigrants by providing money for phone calls, books, connecting with family, clothes for deportation, and at times free legal consultations. For over a year, FOMDD also has helped sustain the Circle of Protection in Miramar, where immigrants are forced to report to ICE. Every week, volunteers stand outside and bear witness to silent raids and inhumane conditions while comforting immigrant community members and resisting ICE. For the holidays, FOMDD helped to organize an amazing party for the children and their parents outside the ICE office. Because of the amazing work FOMDD has been doing, their founder Bud Conlin, has been banned from visiting at Krome, but Bud has spoken out to explain why silence is not an option for visitor volunteers.

“I was honored to take Bud Conlin and the founding team of FOMDD on their first visit to Krome back in 2013. Since then, I have witnessed FOMDD grow into a nonprofit that is dedicated to abolishing immigration detention while supporting the organizing and power-building initiatives of those of who are most impacted,” said Christina Fialho, the co-founder and co-executive director of Freedom for Immigrants. “Rev. Guttermann often talked about providing a ministry of presence. It is beautiful to see his legacy live on in the love, hope, and compassion that FOMDD brings into some of the darkest systems of oppression in our country.”

Congratulations to this amazing organization!

Circle of Protection Toy Giveaway

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Yesterday, December 19th, the Circle of Protection Toy Giveaway outside the Miramar ICE facility was a huge success! It wouldn’t have been possible without all the donations and support we received, thank you! Nearly $2,500 were raised for grocery gift cards along with countless toys for the children. We spread holiday joy and brought the Miramar Commission their coal.

48382164_10216062784435788_2908134377735061504_nYou can see more picture in our gallery or some news reports on our media tab.

 

 

Toy Drive

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Join the Circle of Protection of Miramar on Wednesday, December 19 at 11 am. We will bring some joy to the kids and parents at #Miramar #ICEFacility!!!

Every day hundreds of immigrants come from all over the state of Florida and must check in to this sinister building of ICE at Miramar, they begin to line up at 4 am and must stand outside in the sun, the cold, the rain, without shelter, lack of access of restrooms or access to food or water.

The Circle Of Protection has been documented, we’ve protested and called the media to denounce and bear witness to shed a light on this. Elected Officials and the city of Miramar just put 3 tents 4 benches and forget about these people… they never show up again.

You can help by donating toys and funds for grocery gifts cards.
Here you have some links where you can Donate so we can buy gift cards for the families
www.fomdd.org/donate
https://www.facebook.com/maria.bilbao

You may drop all toys at these locations:

Broward Drop Off
5715 White Hickory Cir
Tamarac, FL, 33319

Miami Drop Off
2800 Biscayne Blvd #200
Miami, FL, 33137

Rhythm for Refuge

Rhythm for Refuge

Join us next Wednesday, November 28th at 8 PM at Churchill’s Pub for a night of music and community. All proceeds go to support the current refugee caravan from Central America.

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$5 Cover + Raffle

All proceeds to:
Pueblo Sin Fronteras http://www.pueblosinfronteras.org/
New Sanctuary Coalition https://www.sanctuarycaravan.org/

“The fascistic behavior of the U.S. is escalating, while the number of forcibly displaced people in the world is increasing. People in this situation are some of the most vulnerable and powerless on the planet and in many cases have been put there by the actions of the U.S. government. With walls being thrown up around the capitalist heartlands, the world being built before us threatens to be a dystopian horror-show and we can’t afford to be passive in the face of its construction. People labeled as aliens are by definition the most vulnerable among us, and If we remain silent while they’re under attack, the battle lines will shift; the pursuers of brain-dead fascist purity won’t stop– and you’re next. Come join the fight back at this benefit. All monies raised will go to Pueblo Sin Fronteras, working directly with the current refugee caravan in Mexico, and The New Sanctuary Coalition acting in solidarity with them.” – Miami DSA

Also brought to you by:
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Fempower
Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees
Students Working for Equal Rights