Protesters, immigration activists chain themselves to Gov Newsom’s gate, demand release of ‘all’ prisoners

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A group of protesters chained themselves to a gate outside a Fair Oaks, Calif., home owned by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday to demand an end to the transfer of prisoners to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Police arrested about a dozen people, according to a spokesman with the California Highway Patrol, who told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that 10-14 protesters were arrested for trespassing. Among those arrested were illegal immigrants and immigrant rights attorneys.

“There was 10 to 14 people that were chained to themselves and the gate that were obstructing public access,” Greg Zumstein, CHP public information officer, told the paper. “All of those people are going to be arrested for trespassing.”

The incident comes as coronavirus cases rise in California, with outbreaks also occurring in jails and detention facilities including San Quentin State Prison. There, some 537 cases of coronavirus are currently active and about 2,600 cases have been confirmed since the pandemic began.

Reports do not indicate how many of the cases were serious enough to require hospitalization and how many inmates simply tested positive for it.

Nevertheless, activists and Democrats have been exploiting the pandemic to push radical justice reform measures such as early release for prisoners. In California, they are demanding mass clemency for most inmates who are currently incarcerated. They argue their lives are being endangered by being in close contact within prison walls.

“Gov. Newsom, you are responsible for the COVID crisis that’s happening in prisons and jails,” said one demonstrator, the Sacramento Bee reported. “You must act now to save lives.”

Earlier this month, scores of activists and elected Democrats sent a letter to Newsom asking him to stop transferring illegal immigrants released from California detention centers to ICE officers during the pandemic.

The appeal, led by Assemblymember Rob Bonta, argues that illegal immigrants are of generally poorer health and thus at greater risk of contracting the virus and developing serious symptoms after being transferred to ICE holding facilities.

The group of about 60 signatories claimed that ICE facilities are “notorious for medical neglect and unhygienic conditions,” adding that the agency is “wholly ill-prepared and unwilling to provide adequate medical care to individuals in their facilities or protect its staff.”

The group said that some 167 immigrant detainees at the Otay Mesa Detention Center tested positive for the virus and that one person had died from COVID-19.

They also alleged that California’s prisons and jails had become “the primary source of ICE’s new bookings into California’s immigration detention centers,” even though the state is “under no legal obligation to assist the federal government with deportations.”

“We are deeply concerned that in the midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, immigrants who are eligible to be released from local and state custody continue to be transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities where the virus is spreading rapidly and unabated,” the lawmakers and advocates wrote.

“These transfers not only jeopardize the lives of immigrant community members, they also undercut the state’s hard-fought efforts to flatten the curve and reduce the health risks of this highly transmissible virus for all Californians,” they added.

ICE officials pushed back, saying their mission to detain and remove criminal aliens enhances public safety.

“When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders on the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission,” a spokesperson told the Desert Sun newspaper.

In February 2019, Democrats in Congress voted against a measure requiring ICE to be notified when an illegal immigrant failed an FBI background check to purchase a firearm.

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Jon Dougherty

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