During Global Pandemic, ICE Detainees Are Denied Hand Sanitizer and Adequate Soap  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new ProPublica report details the serious threat that COVID-19 poses in the country’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities. At a facility in New Jersey, a state that has been hit particularly hard by the virus, a detainee described appalling conditions including a lack of soap or toilet paper.

Detainees are on a hunger strike because officials are failing to protect them from the pandemic. The facility provided hand sanitizer for guards, but not detainees. And detainees are only rationed one bar of soap for a week.

“Not only has Trump failed to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his barbaric immigration policies will undoubtedly lead to deaths as the virus spreads,” said Lizzy Price, a spokesperson for Accountable.US. “Immigrants held in these facilities are particularly vulnerable. The Trump administration is either unprepared or unwilling to protect them from this virus — either way it is deeply disturbing.”

ProPublica lays out the concerns:

In an audio recording obtained by ProPublica, an immigrant held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention in New Jersey complains that he and other detainees are on a hunger strike to try to obtain soap and toilet paper in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic — and that guards reportedly have told detainees, “Well, you’re going to have to die of something.”

The audio was recorded when Ronal Umaña, a 30-year-old immigrant from El Salvador currently being held at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in New Jersey, placed a personal call to an advocate on Sunday. The advocate provided the audio to ProPublica…

“We started a hunger strike for them to give us toilet paper and soap — which is the most important — and hygiene supplies, like to clean our hands,” Umaña said in the recording. As of Sunday, Umaña said, he and other detainees had been on a hunger strike for four days.

Hudson County’s ICE detention facility is one of at least three in New Jersey where detainees are on a hunger strike over what they see as officials’ failure to protect them from infection. The state has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus, and it was placed under a statewide stay-in-place order on Saturday.

In the recording, Umaña explained that the facility has provided hand sanitizer for guards but not for detainees. Umaña said detainees receive a single bar of soap for a week, both for showering and washing hands; if they want more, they must buy it from the prison commissary for $1.70.

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