How COVID-19 Is Impacting Immigrants In Detention Centers I YBA Awareness Video #1

May 4, 2020

Sources: TRAC Immigration , NBC San Diego, ACLU, Border Angels, Pueblo sin Fronteras


In a time of national panic, unity is essential to survival. But while we struggle with our personal wellbeing and attempt to get a grip on our futures, immigrants continue to be unjustly kept imprisoned in detention centers. While some prisons are releasing low risk offenders to minimize health concerns, ICE has ignored pressures to do the same. The living conditions in these centers have not improved since they made headlines, they’ve only received less coverage. Immigrants are not only living in inhumane conditions, they are living in fear for their lives.

There are misconceptions about who really spends time in these detention centers. Entering the country illegally is a civil infraction, not a federal misdemeanor. The punishment for a civil infraction is generally a fine, only permitting jail time if one is found to be in civil contempt. Despite this fact, many immigrants face conditions in detention facilities that are worse than those in federal prisons. Many believe these detainees to be criminals, while in reality, 61.2% of immigrants in civil detention centers have never been convicted of a crime; these numbers have stayed above 50% since September 2016. Just one in ten (10.7%) detainees, less than 6,000 detainees nationwide, have a criminal conviction on record as of July 2019.

Even so, the classification of “criminal” in this case represents crimes that generally do not fit common stereotypes about criminality, rather referring to minor infractions. In fact, using ICE definitions, most U.S. citizens have engaged in some form of "criminal activity", such as speeding, jay- walking, and other minor infractions of the law” (TRAC).

This is a common occurrence for detainees in these immigrant detention facilities, even though their lives are contingent upon these decisions. According to NBC San Diego “Detainees such as Sergio Jaime feels he and the other detainees should be afforded the same rights as others. He said, ‘All we want is an opportunity with our families. We are not criminals. What scares me is that we could get sick here and even die alone away from our family. And conversely, if someone in my family is sick, I can’t be there for them’”.

Keeping immigrants in detention centers that compromise their safety, health, and wellbeing is contradictory to American values of individual freedom and civil liberties. NBC San Diego has reported that detained migrants share large housing pods, and busses also transfer them to other facilities, but are refused any protective face masks to prevent infection. However, guards and employees have access to fitted gas masks and hazmat suits (according to the migrants who spoke to San Diego NBC 7 as well as social advocates who are in contact with several inmates).

Brian Griffey - Amnesty International: “Time is running out, they have to let these people out before they become a risk to the entire community”

Keeping immigrants in these dangerous conditions is a clear violation of their due process rights. During this tumultuous time, let us not forget the most vulnerable among us. Help us release immigrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases. You can learn more about this issue under the news page on our website,, and on our social media accounts, @youth4borderaid. You can donate to help buy bonds to get detainees out of the Otay Mesa facility through border angels gofundme, which can be found on our website donation page.