Protesters Friday call for release of ICE detainees in Monroe amid virus

A caravan protest Friday called for the release of detainees at the Monroe County Jail, which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses as a detention center.

Protesters chant as a caravan tries to enter the grounds of the Monroe County Inmate Dormitory Facility in Monroe on Friday.

"Advocates are demanding that Immigration and Customs Enforcement release all the immigrant detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic, which threatens human life and health," said Rocky Coronado of Rapid Response Detroit in a news release. "Social distancing is impossible in the facility and disinfectant is virtually non-existent, and ICE has refused to say how or even if the agency protects the people agents detain."

Organizers point to Michigan's number of COVID-19 deaths and cases and calls detention cells "hot spots of COVID." The state reported 35,200 cases and almost 3,000 deaths as of Thursday.

"... ICE has continued business as usual, harassing and detaining people of color and now putting people’s lives and health at risk," according to Rapid Response Detroit.

ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said Thursday there are 31 detainees at the Monroe Jail site and that "ICE has been aggressive in undertaking significant measures to protect staff and detainees. We’ve also been very deliberate in reviewing cases for release."

Walls said ICE is reviewing cases of detainees 60 years or older, are pregnant or are at higher risk for severe illness with COVID-19.

"Utilizing CDC guidance along with the advice of medical professionals, ICE may place individuals in a number of alternatives to detention options," Walls said. "Decisions to release individuals in ICE custody occur every day on a case-by-case basis."

Walls said there are no COVID-19 cases in the Monroe detention lockup. There are five in its detention facility in St. Clair County.

Other organizations participating in the protest include Solidarity & Defense, Occupy ICE Detroit, Detroit Jews for Justice and Movimiento Cosecha Detroit Ann Arbor.