Car Protest Demands Release of Detainees in Otay Mesa Detention Center

At least 155 detainees have been infected with COVID-19 at the detention center, including one who died

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Dozens of protesters in their cars, honked horns and circled in front of the Otay Mesa Detention Center on Sunday to demand the release of detainees amid a Coronavirus outbreak. 

At least 155 detainees have been infected with COVID-19 at the detention center, including one who died, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Immigrant advocates say the government has mishandled COVID-19 outbreaks inside detention centers nationwide.

"As people get sick and they're not taking the proper measures they're going to spread this virus. It does exist and I have family members who have died from the virus," immigrant advocate Lion Lyons said.

During the pandemic, 91 detainees have been released from custody in San Diego as part of a court order, but advocates still worry about the safety inside.

Nationwide there have been 1,201 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among detainees, 155 of those are in San Diego.

"No more needless and senseless deaths because of COVID-19 and ICE's lack of action to protect detainees and staff inside the detention center," said Jennifer Frost Moreno with the Armadillos search and rescue group.

The private company that runs the Otay Mesa Detention Center says it has a coronavirus medical action plan in place.

In a statement, Core Civic laid out some of its safety measures:

All of our facilities are actively promoting the following three health habits for inmates, detainees and residents, as well as staff: regular hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette (coughing or sneezing into a sleeve or tissue), and avoiding touching one’s face. We also encourage the practice of social distancing for all individuals within our facilities.

For demonstrators it’s not enough. They vow to keep protesting until more detainees are let go.

ICE also responded with a statement that reads in part:

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have been taking important steps to safeguard all detainees, staff and contractors, including: reducing the number of detainees in custody by placing individuals on alternatives to detention programs, suspending social visitation, incorporating social distancing practices with staggered meals and recreation times, and through the use of cohorting and isolation of new admissions into the detention network for 14 days before placing them into general population

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