Three letters written by detained migrants at a Arizona immigration jail —made public on Thursday by advocacy group Trans Queer Pueblo— “present a harrowing picture of extreme medical neglect, migrant-led protests, and violent repression,” a release about the letters noted.
The detained migrants were writing from the La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, which currently has 75 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the release.
A May 18 letter, signed by 29 migrants, said the following: “There are 120 of us in a small space and that’s how the pandemic spreads faster.”
The following is a translation of the May 18 letter:
First and foremost, greetings and respect,
In these letters I would like to express the suffering that I and many detainees like me are going through here at La Palma.
We know that many cases of COVID-19 exist here at the prison and they are increasing every day.
We belong to a small group that is not in isolation because there is COVID-19 in all the tanks or suspicions of many cases. We have been detained for a long time and have not yet finished since the courts are suspended; the minimum delay is 3 or 4 months.
We are not sure about the isolation measures. There are 120 of us in a small space and that is how the pandemic propagates faster. The entrance of personnel and other workers is the biggest source of danger of it entering the tank.
There are 120 of us in a small space and that is how the pandemic spreads faster.
We have been through two quarantines and we don’t know for how long. We are asked to sleep opposite each other when we share the same air. The lack of information is depressing. We know nothing. ICE has no answer and our requests for parole are not answered. From our heart, we ask for help. We are human beings.
We do not want to die here, please.
In the name of detainees at La Palma
A second April 30 letter was signed by 32 migrants—many of whom had pre-existing medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and cancer.
“We are deeply afraid we will get infected and die far from our families,” part of the April 18 letter said. The migrants said they were forced to wait 15 days to see medical staff; and when they finally do, they are only prescribed water.
“No matter the illness, they prescribe water,” the letter noted.
A letter dated on April 16 and signed by 39 migrants described how guards have used rubber bullets and teargas in retaliation against peaceful hunger strikers demanding more information about the coronavirus.
“We asked for information from [the guards.] They did not give us any concrete answers. How could we not be afraid of a sickness that could end our lives?,” the letter said.
According to the release, “Trans Queer Pueblo calls on ICE to immediately release the letters’ signatories, all LGBTQ+ migrants, and all migrants in ICE jails in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic.”