PVWC starts petition to have Springfield man released from ICE custody during COVID-19 pandemic

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PVWC

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Pioneer Valley Workers Center has started a petition to have a Springfield man, and other detainees like him, released from ICE custody until coronavirus has subsided.

According to the PVWC, Edy Ramirez Velasquez agreed to a voluntary departure order on March 13, which would have sent him to Guatemala. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Guatemala is not accepting deportees from the U.S. at this time and Velasquez remains in custody.

Edy arrived in the U.S. at age 14 after escaping aggressive recruitment by Guatemala’s gangs in his hometown. He has lived and worked as a farmworker in Springfield for nearly ten years. In April 2019 Edy was arrested in a driving incident, which triggered an immigration investigation. He was arrested in October 2019 and held in detention until his trial on March 13th. The judge denied Edy’s application for withholding of removal and declared him ineligible for asylum, granting instead voluntary deportation.” 

Pioneer Valley Workers Center

ICE declined 22News’ request for comment on the case and petition. The agency did, however, provide information on what they are doing to keep detainees safe:

“Detainees who meet CDC criteria for epidemiologic risk of exposure to COVID-19 are housed separately from the general population. ICE places detainees with fever and/or respiratory symptoms in a single medical housing room, or in a medical airborne infection isolation room specifically designed to contain biological agents, such as COVID-19. This prevents the spread of the agent to other individuals and the general public. ICE transports individuals with moderate to severe symptoms, or those who require higher levels of care or monitoring, to appropriate hospitals with expertise in high risk care. Detainees who do not have fever or symptoms, but meet CDC criteria for epidemiologic risk, are housed separately in a single cell, or as a group, depending on available space.”

ICE

As of Tuesday, one detainee in ICE custody in New Jersey and 19 ICE employees have tested positive for coronavirus. The employees who tested positive are not assigned to detention facilities, according to ICE.

The PVWC’s petition calling on Governor Baker and ICE to release detainees who can not be deported and are not a threat can be found by clicking here.

“Given the Governor’s order that all non-essential activity in Massachusetts must stop, we believe non-essential incarceration must also end. By holding Edy in detention unnecessarily, ICE places his life at risk. Edy should be returned to his family during this time of crisis. Edy is not a danger to anyone, but faces grave danger in detention.” 

Rev. Margaret Sawyer, pastor in the United Church of Christ and Co-Director of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center

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