Advocates for immigrants jailed at notorious detention facility Otay Mesa Detention Center in California say that detainees are once again able to place calls to the advocates following community-led pressure demanding officials at Otay Mesa reverse a heinous decision earlier this month that blocked detained people from being able to place calls to their advocates.
“#UnblockOtay worked!” tweeted Otay Mesa Detention Resistance, noting the assistance of advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “Our numbers are unblocked! Thank you for calling!!! Together we all showed #TeamCoreCivic that they can’t get away with trying to hide human rights abuses.”
Advocates from Otay Mesa Detention Resistance and Pueblo Sin Fronteras said earlier this month that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials had blocked detained people from calling them, cutting off a critical lifeline. ICE reportedly ordered CoreCivic to shut down the line out of supposed “safety concerns,” The Union-Tribune said, but “[i]t was not immediately clear to what behavior or incidents the statement referred.”
”Cristina Malo, who is part of Otay Mesa Detention Resistance’s phone team, said that being able to call people on the outside gives those locked inside hope ‘in a place that’s very hopeless sometimes,’” The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. “She said that by having access to her group’s phone lines, detainees are less isolated from the rest of the world and can speak up if their rights are violated.”
In response, advocates led a public pressure campaign demanding officials reverse the decision and once again allow detained people access to this critical resource. “As we know from our own battle with ICE after the agency blocked our free, confidential Hotline, the US immigration detention system thrives in secrecy,” advocacy group Freedom for Migrants tweeted. “They have an incentive to block communication.”
The pressure appeared to work. On Wednesday, Otay Mesa Detention Resistance tweeted that the lines were back up and running.
Official have plenty of shit to hide when it comes to Otay Mesa, one of the facilities hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic. As of June 24, at least 166 detainees and 11 workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, the first person to die from the virus while in ICE custody, had been held at Otay Mesa for nearly six months before dying at a hospital on May 6. His family said he continued to languish at the facility after an immigration court cruelly denied his release.
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