Cleveland, OH – Thousands of doctors have warned that jails and immigration detention centers would become a “tinderbox” of disease if COVID-19 is allowed to enter. In the name of public health, they are urging federal, state, and local officials to dramatically reduce the number of incarcerated people ASAP. In Ohio, hundreds of immigrants are detained in Butler, Geauga, Morrow, and Seneca counties, sometimes without access to soap or basic medical care.
On Tuesday, March 24, community leaders, an immigration lawyer, and a doctor came together in a conference call to urge the State of Ohio and counties to do everything in their power to reduce the number of people being held in Ohio’s jails and prisons, in the name of public health.
Also today, nearly 60 Ohio organizations and 336 individuals sent a letter to Governor DeWine, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, and county health and law enforcement officials, making the same demand.
The press call featured the following speakers: Nazly Mamedova, Cincinnati immigration lawyer; Dr. Laura Chambers-Kersh, family medicine physician, Beavercreek; Sylvie Bello, Cameroon American Council and the friend of a detained woman who will relocate to Ohio when released; Yvonka Hall, Executive Director, Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition; Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez, Co-Director, InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Colombia, Cleveland; and Houleye Thiam, President, Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in US, Columbus. Lynn Tramonte, Director of the Ohio Immigrant Alliance moderated the call.
The press call also covered the case of a Cameroonian woman who has been detained in California jail for years and has a bond hearing today. Elvira’s story was recently written up in the American Prospect. She will come to live in Ohio with family when she is released.
Ohio immigrants and allies have crafted an urgent agenda for COVID-19 that includes release of detained people; closure of the federal immigration courts; and other life-saving measures. Despite the strength of the broader response, the State of Ohio and the counties that detain immigrants have done nothing to release immigrants who are being held in so-called civil detention, and far too little to release individuals in criminal custody. Across the country and around the world, medical and incarceration experts have been warning that maintaining a large number of people in close quarters in our nation’s jails, prisons, and detention centers is a recipe for disaster and will overwhelm our already over-taxed health system.
Follow the Ohio Immigrant Alliance on Twitter @tramontela