Category Archives: News


US: Free Detained Asylum Seekers in Pandemic

An ICE detainee rests his hands on the window of his cell in the segregation wing at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc, in Adelanto, California, on April 13, 2017.

© 2017 Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

(Washington, DC) – Nearly two dozen human rights, immigrant rights, and civil rights advocates and service providers are coming together to seek the release of immigrants and asylum-seekers in detention.

In the face of continued refusal by federal authorities to use discretion to release people from immigration detention, the groups will leverage the influence of their grassroots supporters to petition the governors of California, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington to take action to urge Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release immigrants and asylum-seekers in detention. Releasing people in immigration detention will protect not only them but also facility staff and the communities in which detention centers are located in their states, the groups said.

The petition sent to Governors Gavin Newsom, Phil Murphy, Tom Wolf, John Bel Edwards, Greg Abbott, and Jay Inslee reads:

As the government official responsible for the health and safety of your state’s residents, I urge you to take all possible actions to press ICE to release immigrants and asylum-seekers detained in [your state] without delay and that all appropriate steps are taken to protect them, facility staff, and the broader public from the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic in ICE detention facilities.

Today’s action represents stepped-up pressure from human rights, immigrant rights, and civil rights advocates and service providers to urge governors and state-level health officials to act. In early March, some of these same groups urged state and local governments to release those held in ICE custody. But ICE continues to detain vulnerable individuals in conditions ripe for the spread of disease, even in detention centers where staff and/or other detainees have already tested positive for Covid-19. 

Public health experts predict that – unless ICE drastically reduces the numbers of detained immigrants in its care – once there are 5 or more cases in a facility, between 72 and 100 percent of detainees in that facility could contract Covid-19 within a 90-day period. Continued detention endangers detainees and could overwhelm hospital capacity, impacting the health of the local communities where detention centers are located. Already one immigrant in detention has died of Covid-19 at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in California.

In a joint statement, the groups are asking these governors to take action and stand up to ICE in a collective action:

ICE has a well-documented history of medical abuse and neglect. Since the onset of the pandemic, ICE facilities have failed to provide detainees with sufficient soap and sanitizer, neglected to facilitate physical distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19 within crowded facilities, and continued to transfer detainees between facilities at grave risk to their health. Even before Covid-19, the needless, arbitrary detention of immigrants and asylum-seekers in inadequate conditions with negligent medical care violated human rights and caused untold human suffering.

We are coming together to amplify pressure on ICE to act. As states address the public health and humanitarian challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are urging governors to use their public health authority to press ICE and federal immigration detention facilities and county and local jails and prisons to immediately and substantially reduce occupancy in facilities detaining immigrants and asylum-seekers. We hope that they will hear us and act swiftly to save lives.

The groups are:

  • ALDEA – The People’s Justice Center (PA)
  • Amnesty International USA (CA, WA, NJ, PA, TX, LA)
  • Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) (CA)
  • Centro Legal de la Raza (CA)
  • Families Belong Together (CA, WA, NJ, PA, TX, LA)
  • Human Rights First (CA, WA, NJ, PA, TX, LA)
  • Human Rights Watch (CA, WA, NJ, PA, TX, LA)
  • Immigrant Defense Advocates (CA)
  • Immigration Justice Campaign, an initiative of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Council (NJ)
  • Innovation Law Lab (CA, LA, TX)
  • Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA) (LA)
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (CA)
  • National Immigrant Justice Center (CA, WA, NJ, PA, TX, LA)
  • Never Again Action (CA, WA, NJ, PA)
  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (WA)
  • OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates (CA, WA, NJ, PA, TX, LA)
  • Oxfam America (CA, WA, NJ, PA, TX)
  • Physicians for Human Rights (CA, WA, NJ, PA, TX, LA)
  • SPLC Action Fund (LA)
  • Women’s Refugee Commission (CA, WA, NJ, PA, TX, LA)

To learn more about this effort, please visit:


Thai Activist Arrested on Covid-19 Pretext

Supporters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship — known as the “Red Shirts” — held a remembrance service in Bangkok on May 13, 2020 to demand justice for those killed and wounded by the military during the crackdown on the 2010 political protests.

© 2020 Anurak Jeantawanich

Thai authorities are using Covid-19 regulations as a convenient rationale to silence peaceful critics of the government.

On the evening of May 13, Bangkok police arrested prominent pro-democracy activist Anurak Jeantawanich for violating the ban on public assembly – one of the emergency measures imposed to prevent the coronavirus outbreak.

The arrest was triggered by a remembrance service that Anurak held earlier that day with about 40 supporters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship – known as the “Red Shirts” – demanding justice for those killed and wounded by the military during the crackdown on the 2010 political protests. Police accused Anurak of ignoring social distancing, acting in a way likely to spread the virus, and disobeying lawful orders by taking a group photo with participants at the event. If found guilty, Anurak faces 2 years in prison and a 40,000 baht (US$1,250) fine.

Police are also considering whether to arrest participants in other political activities marking the 10th anniversary of the Red Shirt protests.

International human rights law recognizes that in the context of a serious public health emergency, restrictions on some rights can be justified when they are strictly necessary, proportionate to achieve the objective, and are neither arbitrary nor discriminatory in application. But Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha declared a state of emergency on March 24 that gave the authorities a free hand to censor free speech. Since then, dissenting voices and critical opinions about the government’s Covid-19 response by the media, medical personnel, and the general public have been stifled.  

On March 16, a group of United Nations human rights experts said “emergency declarations based on the Covid-19 outbreak should not be used as a basis to target particular groups, minorities, or individuals. It should not function as a cover for repressive action under the guise of protecting health … and should not be used simply to quash dissent.”

The abusive Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situation empowers Thai authorities to act well beyond the public health threats posed by the virus, and they are threatening disproportionate punishments for politically motivated reasons. The decree should urgently be repealed or drastically revised.