An ICE detainee rests his hands on the window of his cell in the segregation wing at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc, in Adelanto, California, on April 13, 2017. © 2017 Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Re: In Light of COVID-19, Immediately Stop the Transfers of Angelenos into the Custody of Federal Immigration Authorities and the Adelanto Immigration Prison

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and following the enclosed community letter to the Board of Supervisors, dated March 4, 2020 and signed by 100 organizations, we write today to urge you to immediately stop the transfers of Angelenos—who have already served their time and are due for release back to their homes and families—into the custody of federal immigration authorities and the Adelanto immigration prison.[1] Specifically, following the action the City of Los Angeles has already taken,[2] the County of Los Angeles should no longer facilitate the arrest of a person by federal immigration authorities, unless it is pursuant to a judicial probable cause determination for a criminal offense, or otherwise required by law.

Without effective public health intervention to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 200 million people nationally could be infected and 2.2 million people could die, crushing the nation’s medical system.[3] Yet, despite Governor Gavin Newsom’s strict social distancing guidelines throughout California and stronger local measures in Los Angeles, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has continued business as usual, carrying out its increasingly aggressive and deceptive enforcement operations and further undermining Angelenos’ public safety and health.[4] Worse, once ICE detains our community members, they are generally taken to the Adelanto immigration prison, where ICE has demonstrated an abject failure to provide adequate medical care even under “normal” circumstances.[5] Moreover, just in the five-month period between October 1, 2019 and February 29, 2020, five individuals died in ICE custody.[6]

The Adelanto immigration prison is a “congregate environment,” a place where people live and sleep in close proximity, where infectious diseases communicated by air or touch are more likely to spread. As a result, detained individuals will find it virtually impossible to engage in the social distancing and hygiene necessary to prevent and manage COVID-19, even with any best-laid plans.[7] Further, lacking preventative measures, education, and meaningful access to proper health care is precisely the stage for a COVID-19 outbreak.[8] As staff and ICE agents go back to their homes each night, a COVID-19 outbreak would affect not just detained individuals, but also the broader community.[9] Thus, correctional public health experts and community organizations have urged the release from immigration custody of people most vulnerable to COVID-19.[10] Logically, proactive public health measures also include ceasing the detention of additional county residents at the Adelanto immigration prison.[11] For these very reasons, the Sheriff’s Department has taken initial steps to reduce the county jail population by slashing field arrests and releasing incarcerated individuals.[12]

ICE, however, has taken no steps to reduce its detained population, exposing individuals to life-threatening incarceration. It has continued its enforcement operations. And rather than exercise sound judgment and discretion to at a minimum release people vulnerable to COVID- 19, ICE instead seems to have taken the position that it will not release anyone unless individuals present symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 or it is ordered to do so by a judge.[13]

This position is reckless and inhumane.

In this context, Los Angeles County should immediately stop the destructive—and potentially deadly—practice of handing over Angelenos into the custody of federal immigration authorities, which subjects our neighbors to further incarceration under life-threatening conditions at the Adelanto immigration prison.[14]

It is time for Los Angeles County, as the county with one of the richest and most diverse immigrant communities, to require federal immigration authorities to show judicial probable cause in order to access Sheriff’s Department jail facilities, stations, and courthouse lockups. In addition, Los Angeles County should urge federal immigration authorities to suspend enforcement operations and release detained individuals in order to combat the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public health of county residents.[15]

Signatories

ACLU of Southern California American Indian Movement – Southern California
Anti Recidivism Coalition (ARC)
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council Asociación Latino Musulmana de Norte América
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) Black and Brown Clergy
Black Jewish Justice Alliance
Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles (BLM-LA) Brothers, Sons, Selves
California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CYIJA)
Central American Resource Center – Los Angeles (CARECEN-LA)
Centro CSO
Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE)
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)
Council on American-Islamic Relations – Los Angeles (CAIR-LA) Community Coalition Dignity and Power Now
Dolores Mission Catholic Church Essie Justice Group
Esperanza Immigrants’ Rights Project Food Empowerment Project
Freedom for Immigrants Ground Game LA
Holman United Methodist Church Homeboy Industries
Homies Unidos
Human Impact Partners (HIP) Human Rights Watch
Iglesia Cristiana Centro de Vida Victoriosa Ikar
Immigrant Defenders Law Center Immigrant Legal Resource Center Immigration Resource Center of San Gabriel Valley
Indivisible
Instituto de Avance Latino (IDEAL) JusticeLA
Khmer Girls in Action Kol Tikvah Temple
Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA)
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)
Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice LA County Public Defender Union – AFSCME Local 148
LA Forward LA Progressive LA Voice
Leo Baeck Temple
Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition March & Rally LA
Matthew 25
Mountainside Communion
National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
National Immigration Law Center (NILC) National Lawyers Guild – Los Angeles (NLG-LA)
Never Again Action Los Angeles Occupy/Abolish ICE L.A.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church Our Gov LA
Pacoima Beautiful
Pasadena Mennonite Church Pasadena Presbyterian Church
People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER) Public Counsel Reform L.A. Jails
Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church Saint Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church
Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church Sanctuary Long Beach Coalition Sanctuary Task Force of the Episcopal Church of Los Angeles
SEIU – United Service Workers West Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) Success Stories
Temple Israel of Hollywood The Bail Project
The Church Without Walls The Justice Collaborative The Strategy Center
UCLA Downtown Labor Center
UCLA School of Law Criminal Defense Clinic
UCLA School of Law Immigrants’ Rights Policy Clinic
Urban Peace Institute (UPI) West Valley Food Pantry Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) #MeToo Survivors
#MeToo Survivors’ March International


[1] The federal government labels the Adelanto immigration prison and other immigration prisons as civil detention centers, but the penal reality of these immigration prisons is unmistakable. See, e.g., César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, Immigration Detention as Punishment, 61 UCLA L. REV. 1346, 1382-89 (2014); César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, Abolish Immigration Prisons, N.Y. TIMES (Dec. 2, 2019), available at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/02/opinion/immigration-detention-prison.html.

[2] Office of the Chief of Police, Notice 1.14, “Immigration Enforcement Procedures” p. 5 (Dec. 29, 2017) (“Department personnel shall not permit US-ICE agents access to Department jail facilities to transfer arrestees except: To transfer custody pursuant to a judicial warrant or judicial probable cause determination for a criminal offense that authorizes a law enforcement officer to arrest and take into custody the individual for a federal criminal immigration offense    ”) (emphasis added).

[3] Sheri Fink, Worst-Case Estimates for U.S. Coronavirus Deaths, N.Y. TIMES (Mar. 13, 2020), available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/us/coronavirus-deaths-estimate.html; Sheri Fink, White House Takes New Line After Dire Report on Death Toll, N.Y. TIMES (Mar. 16, 2020), available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/us/coronavirus-fatality-rate-white-house.html.

[4] On Monday, March 16, 2020, ICE continued to carry out its destructive enforcement policies in Los Angeles County. See, e.g., Brittny Mejia, With masks at the ready, ICE agents make arrests on first day of California coronavirus lockdown, L.A. TIMES (Mar. 17, 2020), available at https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03- 17/for-ice-agents-its-business-as-unusual-day-after-sweeping-coronavirus-order. Just last month, a plainclothes ICE agent shot an immigrant community member in the face at point blank range. Annie Correal & Ed Shanahan, Shooting of Man in the Face by ICE Turns Into a Trump-New York Fight, N.Y. TIMES, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/11/nyregion/ice-officer-shooting.html. As more and more immigrants know their rights, ICE has also stepped up ruses, primarily passing as local police to ensnare our immigrant neighbors. See, e.g., Nausicaa Renner, As Immigrants Become Aware of Their Rights, ICE Steps Up Ruses and Surveillance, THE INTERCEPT (July 25, 2019), https://theintercept.com/2019/07/25/ice-surveillance-ruse-arrests-raids/.

[5] See, e.g., Paloma Esquivel & Brittny Mejia, Nooses in cells, rotting teeth — report details harsh conditions at Adelanto immigration facility, L.A. TIMES (Oct. 2, 2018), available at https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me- ln-adelanto-oig-20181002-story.html; NGO Letter Concerning Inadequate Medical Care at Adelanto (May 15, 2015), available at https://www.aclusocal.org/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/NGO-letter-re- Adelanto-medical-care.pdf; Human Rights Watch, American Civil Liberties Union, et al., Code Red: The Fatal Consequences of Dangerously Substandard Medical Care in Immigration Detention (June

2018), https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/06/20/code-red/fatal-consequences-dangerously-substandard-medical-care- immigration.

Outbreaks of contagious diseases at immigration prisons have been devastating. For example, the 2019 outbreak of mumps in immigration prisons caused the hospitalization of dozens of people, the quarantine of hundreds, and it spread to many workers. See, e.g., Priscilla Alvarez, 5,200 people in ICE custody quarantined for exposure to mumps or chicken pox, CNN (June 14, 2019), https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/14/politics/mumps- chicken-pox-quarantine-ice/index.html. This outbreak was for a disease with an existing vaccine, and characteristics and contagiousness that were well understood. There is no way to predict the devastating consequences that a COVID-19 spread would have on the detained population—and the broader community—today.

[6] See U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Death Detainee Report (accessed on Mar. 18, 2020), https://www.ice.gov/death-detainee-report#wcm-survey-target-id.

[7] See, e.g., Cindy Carcamo et al., Coronavirus is turning an overloaded immigration system into a ‘tinderbox’, L.A. TIMES (Mar. 16, 2020), available at https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-18/coronavirus-strains- immigration-system.

[8] See Eva Bitran & Grace Meng, ACLU, HRW Letter to Adelanto Detention Facility re: COVID-19 (Mar. 11, 2020), https://www.aclusocal.org/en/aclu-hrw-letter-adelanto-re-covid-19.

[9] See id.; Carcamo et al., supra, note 7.

[10] See, e.g., Dr. Homer Venters, Four Ways to Protect Our Jails and Prisons from Coronavirus, THE HILL (Feb. 29, 2020), https://thehill.com/opinion/criminal-justice/485236-4-ways-to-protect-our-jails-and-prisons-from- coronavirus?rnd=1582932792; Dr. Anne C. Spaulding, Coronavirus COVID-19 and the Correctional Facility: for the Correctional Healthcare Worker 14, 17, (Mar. 9, 2020), https://www.ncchc.org/filebin/news/COVID_for_CF._HCW_3.9.20.pdf. On March 16, 2020, the ACLU and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sued ICE in the U.S. District Court Western District of Washington seeking the release of detained individuals who are at high risk for serious illness or death in the event of COVID-19 infection. See ACLU, ACLU Sues ICE for Release of Immigrants Especially Vulnerable to COVID-19 (Mar. 16, 2020), https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-and-nwirp-sue-ice-seeking-release-immigrants-especially-vulnerable- covid-19.

[11] See CHIRLA, Government Response to Coronavirus Must Include Immigrants and Refugees (Mar. 16, 2020), https://medium.com/@CHIRLA.ORG/government-response-to-the-coronavirus-must-include-immigrants-refugees- 361f92f44f0e.

[12] See Alene Tcheckmedyian et al., L.A. County releasing some inmates from jail to combat coronavirus, L.A. TIMES (Mar. 16, 2020), available at https://twitter.com/NYCCouncil38/status/1239968044069212160.

Community organizations and the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board have urged for even stronger measures. See JusticeLA, LA County Must Act Immediately to Prevent COVID-19 Deaths in Jail System (Mar. 15, 2020), http://justicelanow.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/LA-Jails-COVID-19-Advocacy-Group-Letter- 03.15.20.pdf; L.A. Times Editorial Bd., Editorial: Coronavirus makes jails and prisons potential death traps. That puts us all in danger, L.A. TIMES (Mar. 18, 2020), available at https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03- 18/coronavirus-prisons-releases.

[13] See U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE Guidance on COVID-19 (accessed on Mar. 18, 2020), https://www.ice.gov/covid19.

[14] Given that Guatemala and El Salvador have suspended all deportation flights from the United States, and Mexico may soon follow, there may be an increase in individuals detained after they are ordered removed, leading to further overcrowding at the Adelanto immigration prison. See Carcamo et al., supra, note 7; Reuters, El Salvador Suspends Deportations From U.S., Mexico Over Coronavirus, N.Y. TIMES (Mar. 18, 2020), available at https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/03/18/world/americas/18reuters-health-coronavirus-el-salvador- deportations.html.

[15] On March 17, 2020, the Council of the City of New York submitted a letter to ICE calling for the suspension of immigration enforcement and the release of detainees in order to combat the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public health. See New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca’s Tweet (Mar. 17, 2020, 10:33 am), https://twitter.com/NYCCouncil38/status/1239968044069212160.