Local activists are urging Gov. Charlie Baker and governors around the country to use their authority to release people detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement amid the spread of coronavirus.
And they’re pointing to history to make their point.
“Anne Frank died of an infectious disease in a crowded detention center,” reads a message the group, Never Again Action Boston, projected near Government Center Sunday night. “Governor Baker, release everyone in ICE detention before it’s too late.”
— Never Again Action Boston (@NeverAgainBOS) March 23, 2020
The calls come amid a push to reduce the number of people detained and imprisoned across the country because of concerns of how COVID-19 could ravage jails and prisons — particularly its impact on those detainees and prisoners who are considered high-risk and vulnerable.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts recently wrote to ICE, asking the agency to halt detentions in response to the growing global pandemic. The organization also called on public officials to take steps to protect incarcerated people, including by limiting arrests to serious offenses, among other measures.
Never Again Action says there are 52,000 undocumented immigrants currently in detention cells across the United States.
“(Fifty two thousand) people in the exact conditions that allow COVID-19 to spread,” the group of Jewish activists and allies says on its website. “Anne Frank didn’t die in a gas chamber. Anne Frank died because she caught an infectious disease in a concentration camp. We have seen this before. We won’t let it happen again. Never again is now.”
The group says governors should use their “emergency executive power” to release detainees.
“Protect immigrants from this virus, for their safety and for public health,” it says on its website. “We hope that our governors will choose the path of morality AND public safety. If they don’t, we will pressure them until they do.”
According to ICE, as of March 17, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in detention facilities.
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