Protestors Demand Justice For Detainees At Otay Mesa Detention Center, Across California
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Photo by Matthew Bowler
Protesters gathered at the Otay Mesa Detention Center on Tuesday to call on Governor Gavin Newsom to stop transfers of federal detainees and release those at risk of contracting COVID-19.
The group of protestors draped a banner over the private detention center's company sign, calling it “Gavin Newsom COVID-19 Death Camp.”
Banners were also placed in more than 30 locations throughout California Tuesday as a statewide call-to-action for Newsom.
Alex Mensing, an organizer for Pueblo Sin Fronteras, said the system of transferring detainees between jails and prisons to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities needs to end.
“We are calling on Gavin Newsom to stop ICE transfers and to stop all transfers between California prisons and jails and all transfers from people outside from prison to ICE facilities,” he said.
Another goal of the statewide protests was to hold private prison companies accountable for any medical abuses or harmful neglect of detainees.
There are not proper medical supplies to keep people inside of prisons safe from COVID-19, said Mejgan Afshan, co-founder of Borderlands For Equity.
“We are still in the midst, the depths of this pandemic," she said. "And the proper PPE and the proper medical care still has yet to be received here so we knew we had to do something that would take the attention of our community.”
CoreCivic, the company that runs the Otay Mesa Detention Center, responded to the protesters' comments via email, saying:
"CoreCivic is committed to the health and safety of every individual in our care at Otay Mesa. This commitment is shared with our government partners who hold our facilities accountable to the highest standards with hundreds of on-site, full-time staff to monitor our compliance. Patients with chronic health conditions are treated and regularly monitored by facility medical staff. All detainees have daily access to sign up for medical care. Our clinic is staffed with licensed, credentialed doctors, nurses and mental health professionals who contractually meet the highest standards of care... There is ample and appropriate levels of PPE at the facility."
ICE said 169 people have contracted COVID-19 at the Otay Mesa Detention Center.
In May, a 57-year-old Salvadoran man died after he contracted COVID-19 at the detention center.
“My scariest thought was not making it out alive and not seeing my 2-year-old son again," said Briseida Salazar, a former detainee, recalling her experience. "Unfortunately my family is undocumented … due to that, they weren't able to visit me very much. I am like them, still detained in this detention center. I won't feel free until they are all free.”
Other banner drops in San Diego County were held at the highway overpass at the San Ysidro border by Las Americas Premium Outlets and at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Logan Heights.
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Editor's Note: This story was updated to include a comment from CoreCivic, the operator of the Otay Mesa Detention Facility.
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