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Week of action demands that all immigrants detained in Minnesota be released

By staff

Car with the slogan "Free them all" at Governor's Mansion.

Minneapolis, MN – In a press conference held by video on April 14, several immigrant rights organizations announced a week of action happening this week to demand that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and elected officials at the state and county level take action now to free all immigrants held in ICE detention in the state.

Immigration detainees are detained on civil charges and ICE has broad leeway to release people. In the current situation with the rapid spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus, the conditions in Minnesota jails are ripe for the infection and death to spread quickly. Speakers at the press event pointed out the impossibility for people in detention to follow Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to socially distance, wash hands frequently and wear masks. They also spoke about the inadequate health care available to inmates and the lack of testing for people detained who have shown symptoms of COVID-19.

Speakers included Daniel Romero of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration, Nuria Arias of Pueblos de Lucha y Esperanza, Sam Crossly of Minnesota Educators Against ICE, Brad Sigal of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, Nekessa Opoti of the Black Immigrant Collective, Nicole Richards of Sanctuary and Resistance Against Injustice, and immigration lawyer Kim Hunter, whose law firm represents two of the 62 immigrant detainees in Sherburne County Jail who filed an emergency petition for release due to the danger of COVID-19.

All speakers echoed the main demand of the week of action: that all immigration detainees be freed now to avoid a catastrophic spread of sickness and death in the jails.

The week of action includes a daily fast by Antonia Alvarez of Pueblos de Lucha y Esperanza in front of Governor Tim Walz’s mansion in Saint Paul, as well as call-in days to Governor Walz, to Minnesota Commissioner of Corrections Paul Schnell and to county sheriffs and commissioners in counties that hold ICE detainees.

Additionally, Daniel Romero of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM) announced that the week of action will culminate on Friday with a car caravan and honk-in outside the Sherburne County Jail in Elk River, Minnesota. That jail, about an hour outside of the Twin Cities, holds many immigrants in detention. 62 immigrants detained there have filed an emergency legal appeal for release due to the danger of COVID-19 in the jail.

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