Lawmakers Ask Newsom To Stop Transferring People From Prison To ICE Detention
Advocates and lawmakers are now focused on a major contributor to the continued spread of the virus inside immigration detention — people who have finished their prison term and are transferred to ICE custody for possible deportation.
Over 250 people have been transferred from California prisons to ICE detention since Governor Newsom issued a Stay-At-Home order in March. Among them were three people who had already tested positive for COVID-19 in early June while in prison in Riverside County. Their transfers were allowed to go ahead anyway.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) was one of 50 state legislators, including state Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), who sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday asking him to issue an executive order stopping these transfers.
“This is a governor who has met the moment time and time again,” Bonta said during a Monday morning press conference. “I’m confident and hopeful he’ll meet it again with us on this issue and be our partner to make sure we’re doing right by our Californians in custody, who do not need to be sent to potential death sentences in immigration detention centers.”
Last week, a Cambodian refugee was released from San Quentin prison directly to his family. Advocates say it’s safer for immigrants facing deportation, who have already served prison sentences, to continue their immigration case from home and not in immigration detention, where coronavirus has run rampant.
“Why are people being imprisoned for indeterminate sentences, over a civil matter, even though they have families homes and the ability to appear for court appointments?,” said Charles Joseph, who was sent to the Mesa Verde Detention Center after being released from prison. A judge ordered his release this April as COVID-19 began to spread in the detention center.
The Otay Mesa Detention Center has had 167 positive cases of coronavirus since March. ICE did not respond to a request for comment about how many people have been transferred from state prison to the facility.