May 6, 2020


Today, reports revealed the first death of a person who tested positive with COVID-19 in immigration detention at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. This follows dozens of reports of the unhygienic and dangerous conditions people are being forced to live in within these detention centers and the deaths of two ICE guards who also tested positive with the virus.

Families Belong Together co-director Paola Luisi released the following statement in response:

“Despite unwavering calls to prevent this, Trump’s immigration system took another life. In the past three years, six children and dozens of adults have died in US immigration custody, and that was before the arrival of Covid-19. Doctors, public health experts, activists, and elected officials have been very clear about the risk Covid-19 poses to jailed families and to broader public health.”

“You cannot cage a virus, and it is impossible to safely physically distance behind bars. We fear this tragic death will be the first of many if immigration officials continue to willfully ignore public health experts. Compassion and public health come first: ICE must immediately release and reunite families.”  


The Families Belong Together coalition includes nearly 250 different groups comprising tens of thousands of Americans from all backgrounds who have joined together to fight the Trump Administration’s cruel family separation and anti-immigrant agenda. Led by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, MoveOn, the ACLU, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Families Belong Together coalition organized the National Day of Action that saw hundreds of thousands of people protest the family separation policy and other inhumane immigration policies at more than 780 events in all 50 states. The coalition is at the forefront of the fight to permanently end family separation and incarceration, immediately reunite all families who remain torn apart, reverse the Trump administration’s zero-humanity policy that created this crisis, and hold accountable anyone who has profited politically or financially from the suffering of these families.