The lawyers representing a group of detainees at an Arizona immigrant detention center are pointing to a letter that details threatening conditions in custody as coronavirus spreads in the facility.
According to the letter, which was received and disseminated by the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, the facility continued using the detainees as helpers in the kitchen “knowing it was the place where the coronavirus started spreading” until the kitchen was suspended.
In the letter, which was translated from Spanish to English, there is a case that a detainee allegedly was asked to clean the cell door that had walls “covered in the feces,” without being given requested gloves.
The letter, as released by advocates to CNN and was signed by 70 detainees held at the La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona.
“We’re begging for your help because this is a life or death situation,” said in the letter.
Allegedly, there are no social distancing measures at the facility and that detainees continue to clean areas as fears over coronavirus ascend.
This week, the advocates filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to order the release of 13 medically vulnerable detainees from La Palma and the neighboring Eloy Detention Center.
Laura Belous, an attorney with the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, which advocates for alternatives to detention to help stop the spread.
“The more people that are getting sick inside the detention centers, the more people that are getting sick in the community and the more hospitals and doctors in the community are taxed,” Belous said.
The letter, signed by detainees from India, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, and other countries, alleges a number of issues at the facility.
It is stated that the cells continue to have two “detainees in them with the toilet inside of them and minimal hygiene.”
The migrants also say that cleaning products continue to be basic and, there is no toilet paper on weekends. Apart from health issues, the migrants also raised concerns about the length of stay in the facility and access to court hearings.
According to ICE data, there have been 78 confirmed cases of coronavirus at the La Palma facility since testing began in February, with 14 current cases.
ICE spokesperson Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.