“This is an emergency,” one woman says in Spanish. “They’re keeping us here without masks, without antibacterial gel.” Another woman holds up a sign: “#No-Antibacterial. #SOS.” Then another in an improvised mask looks into the camera: “We’re trying to save our lives, so we’re making masks from our clothes,” she says. “So we need this to go viral. We need your help. Please help us.”
The video call from an immigrant detention center in Conroe, Texas, where people had tested positive for COVID-19, was released on Twitter with an urgent message: “Public health experts predict once a facility has 5+ cases, 72-100% of detainees could get #COVID19 within 90 days.”
Recent years had already made life harder for refugees and immigrants to the United States. Targeted Trump administration policies, such as family separation at the southern border, exacerbated the cruelty of the immigration system. It seemed that the gap between America’s celebration of its history as a nation of immigrants and its treatment of people now seeking refuge couldn’t get any wider.
Then the coronavirus hit—delivering a wallop to immigrant as well as Black and Brown communities. The outbreak exacerbated existing inequalities, making life for many immigrants, especially the undocumented, even more perilous. Employed in some of the hardest-hit industries and excluded from most government help, immigrant families scrambled to keep themselves fed and their bills paid. The crisis sent advocacy groups and organizations that normally work with these communities—like the ones you’ll read about in our special migration report that launches tomorrow—into overdrive to provide relief. They’ve been opening and stocking food banks, raising funds to help cover rent, and finding ways to connect people to health care.
The spread of COVID-19 through detention facilities was the most immediate crisis for organizations such as Detention Watch Network that for years had been demanding we shut down private detention centers across the country.
By Valerie Schloredt for yes!
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