Heartbreak and outrage follow needless death in ICE detention

For Immediate Release: May 7, 2020
Contact: Arianna Rosales, arosales@ilrc.org
Jon Rodney, jon@immdefense.org

Statement: Heartbreak and outrage follow needless death in ICE detention
All eyes on ICE - and all officials who failed to act - as demands to #FreeThemAll intensify

2020.5.7 - In the wake of the preventable death yesterday of Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejía from COVID-19, the Dignity not Detention coalition issued the following statement. 

We mourn the tragic and needless death of Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, a human being trapped in the systematically abusive Otay Mesa Detention Facility, managed by for-profit corporation CoreCivic for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Carlos was a brother, a neighbor, a community member - and a Californian. We stand with local human rights leaders in San Diego who fought tirelessly to free Carlos and continue to fight for the freedom and safety of all detained people. As we grapple with the grief of this utterly preventable tragedy, we demand immediate and decisive action at all levels of government. 

Since the pandemic began, doctors, medical experts, advocates, and people detained in these facilities have consistently sounded the alarm: physical distancing is impossible in immigration detention and all forms of incarceration, and as ICE systematically deprives people of liberty, it has amassed a shocking record of medical neglect. Yet ICE and CoreCivic failed to take the most minimal steps to protect lives in their custody. Currently, nearly 200 people detained at Otay Mesa have tested positive for COVID-19.  

And despite multiple letters, meetings, requests, and car protests, California’s leading officials, including Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Diane Feinstein, Attorney General Becerra, and Governor Newsom, have responded at most with empty words - not action. These officials must immediately launch an investigation into conditions at the Mesa Verde Facility and demand that ICE liberate everyone inside their inadequate facilities, starting with the most vulnerable. 

The Dignity not Detention coalition led efforts to pass and implement AB 32, which bans for-profit detention centers and for-profit prisons in California. The coalition  includes: Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), Immigrant Defense Advocates (IDA), Freedom for Immigrant (FFI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), Kern Youth Abolitionist (KYA), Inland Empire Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ), Resilience Orange County (ROC), Interfaith for Human Integrity (IM4HI), Immigrant Defense Project (IDP), Human Impact Partners (HIP), Detention Watch Network (DWN), Pangea Legal Services, Centro Legal De La Raza, ACLU, AFSC - San Diego, SIREN, Immigrant Legal Defense (ILD).