Dozens of immigrant prisoners at the privately owned Otay Mesa Detention Center near San Diego began a hunger strike this weekend over mounting concerns about their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Otay Mesa now has the largest coronavirus outbreak of any immigration jail in the United States. Last week, reports emerged of Otay Mesa guards pepper-spraying a group of women in one of the holding units for refusing to sign a contract reportedly protecting CoreCivic from liability if immigrants became sick, in exchange for face masks. This is a phone call between an activist with the immigration rights group Pueblos Sin Fronteras and a woman detained at Otay Mesa held in the unit that was pepper-sprayed.
Asylum seeker: “They are throwing pepper spray at us! They do not respect us. We are human, not animals. Help! They want to force us to sign documents so that we throw away the masks. They want to charge us for T-shirts we used to make the masks.”
In more immigration news, dozens of people held a rally outside a prison for immigrant youth in Chicago Saturday demanding they release detained children. The Heartland Alliance facility houses nearly 70 children separated from their parents on the U.S.-Mexico border, and as of last week confirmed some 37 children have tested positive for COVID-19. In recent days, images have emerged of youth inside displaying signs at the facility’s windows that read ”HELP.”