Glades County Detention Center, Moore Haven, Florida
March 22, 2020 – ongoing

On the evening of March 22, immigrant detainees at Glades County Detention Center in Florida began a hunger strike to protest the facility’s negligence and refusal to take adequate measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Three days later, on March 25, the number of hunger strikers had risen to 100.

Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees, an advocacy group for those detained at Glades, has been the main line of communication between the strikers and the outside world. Detainees have told the activists that they are being forced to live and eat in unhygienic conditions that are even worse than usual. The strikers also claim that the detention center is no longer providing antibacterial soap to some detainees.

Glades Detention Center began taking some actions beginning on March 2 or earlier, such as isolating some prisoners who displayed “flu-like symptoms” and making plans to transfer some to a hospital for coronavirus testing.

However, it is unclear how many prisoners were tested as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been conspicuously silent about their response, which advocates say is in contrast to ICE’s approach to earlier quarantines. Multiple journalists have also reported on ICE’s refusal to comment on details related to their COVID-19 prevention efforts. Despite this blackout, the Miami Herald reported that at least four detainees from Glades had been tested at a nearby hospital.

Weeks before the hunger strike Heriberto Hernandez, a lawyer representing multiple detainees at Glades, described the severity of the situation, saying that “Detainees are essentially held hostage to any disease that might be spreading around the facility.”

When asked for a statement by a reporter at the Miami New Times, a staffer at the Glades County Detention Center declined to comment on the situation. A spokesperson for ICE also denied that there was a hunger strike at Glades.

Even while protests and hunger strikes spread, and at least two ICE detainees have tested positive for COVID-19, ICE has refused to release any person from the facilities it operates. This is despite the fact that, as The Nation reported in 2019, ICE has a documented history of releasing detained individuals who are on their deathbeds in order to avoid the medical costs of life support, evaded congressionally mandated reporting requirements for deaths in custody, and artificially suppresses the number of deaths for which it is considered responsible.

The hunger strike occurs amidst ICE’s apparent contradiction of its public statements that it would not be be detaining immigrants on non-criminal cases. Despite this commitment, ICE has continued to arrest immigrants for visa overstays as well as undocumented people who happen to be on site when agents make a criminal arrest.

Glades County Detention Center is a county jail that, in addition to housing pretrial detainees and prisoners with short sentences, houses ICE detainees under a contract with the federal agency.

Screenshot from ICE Website taken March 28

Citations:

“Florida ICE Detainees Start Hunger Strike Over Coronavirus Concerns” Miami New Times, March 26, 2020.

Quarantines at Florida immigration detention centers rise as ICE arrests more migrants“, Miami Herald, March 26, 2020.

Florida ICE Jail Quarantines Detainees Amid Coronavirus Testing“, Miami New Times, March 10, 2020.

ICE Guidance on COVID-19“, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, accessed March 28, 2020.

Background:

A Trans Asylum Seeker Dies After Pleading to ICE for Medical Care“, The Nation, June 4, 2019.

Article published: 3/28/2020
Header photo source: NationalEvictions.com