“The realization that I will be able to hug my daughter brings me so much joy,” said Fidel Garcia in a statement shared by the advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants. He’s been jailed at the Golden State Annex in California since July 2021. He noted in the statement that he’s been blocked from seeing his loved ones despite being detained nearly a year after the Federal Bureau of Prisons had already decided to end its visitation restriction.
“I’m happy for other people impacted by this as well,” Garcia continued. “Receiving visits will alleviate the emotional harm we suffer here and will motivate us to continue to fight our cases in this horrible facility.” Civil rights advocates have previously filed a complaint alleging that a number of detention facilities in the state, including Golden State Annex, violently retaliated against detained people for peacefully protesting dangerous conditions amid the pandemic.
ICE’s statement said that officials have “initiated an updated phased return” to visitation, meaning that advocates will need to remain vigilant and ensure that officials actually follow through. In fact, Freedom for Immigrants said that as of Wednesday, “advocates had already reported that officials at several detention centers informed advocates that they had not received the new guidance from ICE and had yet to reinstate visitation.” Freedom for Immigrants said, “the campaign to reinstate visitation will closely monitor ICE field offices’ and individual detention facilities’ compliance with the updated guidance to ensure consistent and unrestricted access to visitation at detention facilities.”
“The reinstatement of visitation is a positive step forward and a testament to the collective strength of our communities that pushed for this change, both inside and outside of detention,” said Freedom for Immigrants Policy Director Andrea Carcamo. She said, “communities should not have had to fight tooth and nail to end this harmful policy that could have just as easily been reversed a year ago.”
“Immigration detention is inherently abusive and inhumane, and we will continue to work to abolish this system in its entirety,” Carcamo continued. “Community visitation remains a critical tool on the path to abolition as it allows us to document abuse, foster connection and community with people inside detention, and ultimately build a world where all people can live in freedom and dignity.”
ICE officials have also used the pandemic as an excuse to block detained people from legal help, including requiring attorneys to bring their own face masks. This doesn’t seem like a big ask in May 2022. However, this was March 2020, when nurses and doctors couldn’t get masks. But even when attorneys were actually able to get protective gear, ICE blocked them anyway. ICE then lied to Congress, claiming in a report that its offered unabated access to lawyers. American Immigration Council since called this claim “blatantly false.”