The following is a submission to THINK ACT CONNECT, a platform to share action, inspiration, work, resilience, and justice
Quick update from Lumpkin and the Stewart Deportation Center.
To date there have been two confirmed cases of employees at the Stewart Detention Center being diagnosed as having the coronavirus. In addition, an unknown number of employees who work with those individuals have gone into voluntary self-quarantine. There are currently 4 separate units inside the jail under mandatory quarantine. As far as can be determined no testing is being done on the detainees themselves, which may explain why there are no reported cases.
Many of the guards are not wearing or using personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves, risking both exposing their families and communities to the virus from inside the jail but also carrying the virus in from outside. None of the detainees have been given masks or gloves. Some detainees tried to make protective masks for themselves out of towels, but they were told they could not do so. Attorneys have tried to give their clients gloves and masks in court but have been told that was forbidden.
One of the units actually demanded to be put under quarantine so they would not risk being infected by people from other units! They insisted on having their meals brought to them and won! They also got their commissary brought to them rather than having to leave their cell.
Yesterday, the court stopped bringing detainees to the court and they are now appearing by televideo.
As can be expected, in the absence of clear information and transparency, all kinds of rumors are flying. Yesterday there was a rumor that all of the employees from outside in the kitchen quit and no one was being fed. This of course can’t be true because all of the work in the kitchen is done by detainees who get paid $1.00 – $4.00 per day! Lunch was served late but everyone was fed eventually. There was also a rumor that a detainee had died of the virus but this has not been confirmed and is almost certainly not true.
Some non-profit groups have also been reporting that there will be mass releases due to the virus, but sadly this is also untrue as of this morning. There have been a handful of releases but the reasons for this are varied.
CoreCivic, the private prison profiteer who runs this hellhole, ICE, and the immigration court seem to be treating the virus as a joke. But if they don’t give a f#$k about the detainees you think they would be concerned about this spreading into the surrounding rural communities that have zero ability to cope with it.
This place is a ticking time-bomb.
About Marty Rosenbluth '99
Marty Rosenbluth’s quest for social justice is an Antioch adventure. He left in 1979 without graduating, but later returned to complete his degree in 1999. He received his JD from the UNC School of Law.
From 1985-1993 he lived in the occupied West Bank and worked with Palestinian human rights and trade union organizations. He is currently an immigration Attorney with the Polanco Law Firm and leads their Georgia office near the ICE Stewart Detention Center. As the only private immigration attorney in Lumpkin, GA, Rosenbluth represents undocumented immigrants in the strictest immigration court in the nation.