The Appeal: ICE Detainees Launch Hunger Strike Over Coronavirus Fears

The organizers are attempting to spread the strike through the whole facility, including to workers at the jail. “We are asking our fellow brothers in ICE [custody] to join us. We are also asking the kitchen workers that work in the main kitchen downstairs to not go to work,” the strikers said. “There is power in numbers,” they continued. “This is a fight not only for our freedom but also for our health and safety.”

“It’s a call for action, for people on the outside to support the currently incarcerated,” Sophia Gurulé, an immigration attorney with Bronx Defenders, told The Appeal. “It’s not every day that people incarcerated in these jails are organizing for their own liberation, trying to reunite with their families, their communities. At least in my experience, it’s unprecedented.”

“They’re calling on us to help them in a moment of a global pandemic,” Gurulé continued. “Incarcerated people, people with criminal convictions, are the first to be forgotten. For them to self organize, with all the potential for retaliation, so much of which we can’t even know about—it’s on us to support them.”

To slow the spread of COVID-19, health authorities have recommended frequent hand washing and maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others. People in jails are unable to follow these guidelines, held in close proximity to each other and often not provided with soap or hand sanitizer. Advocates for the incarcerated have warned that the virus could spread rapidly inside jails and prisons, producing large numbers of infected patients that could overwhelm the health system.

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