On the evening of March 3, San Diego community members and organizations led by the Free Them All coalition rallied outside the Otay Mesa Detention Center. The action was attended by Otay Mesa Detention Resistance, American Friends Service Committee San Diego, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, and the Party For Socialism and Liberation, as well as other organizations and community members.
OMDC is just one of more than 200 ICE concentration camps around the United States. CoreCivic is the for-profit prison corporation, a billion-dollar institution employed by the U.S. government, that runs OMDC.
OMDC is the site where the first ICE prisoner to die from COVID-19, Carlos Ernesto Escobar-Mejia, passed away back in May 2020. OMDC consistently has the largest COVID-19 outbreaks of all migrant concentration camps in the United States.
Benjamin Prado from AFSC San Diego stated that, “Migration is a natural human right. Humans have always migrated.”
Participants heard phone calls made from inside OMDC at the time of the rally. Every prisoner said the conditions inside were unhealthy, unsafe and inhumane. A Salvadoran migrant incarcerated in the OMDC, Hever Alberto Mendoza, said, “The money that is being used in these centers should be going to the community, the arts … instead of the inhumane conditions that exist in the centers.”
Mendoza and several other prisoners have been on hunger strike since Feb. 22.
Luis Montoya of PSL spoke in solidarity with migrants and other individuals incarcerated by the U.S. prison industrial complex. Montoya spoke about xenophobic COVID-19 policies, such as Title 42, which directly target migrants. Title 42 illegally expels migrants without offering them the opportunity to request asylum or other humanitarian protections.
“Using Title 42 expulsions as a method to slow the spread of COVID is immoral and wrong. There’s no evidence that a policy allowing for mass expulsions prevents the spread of COVID,” said Montoya.
After the rally, Liberation News spoke with Jess Whatcott, a member of the Free Them All coalition and Detention Resistance. Whatcott said that FTA was created in spring 2020 as a “rapid response to the historical medical neglect within detention centers and to get … people out of detention centers.” Whatcott also mentions some of FTA’s objectives: “FTA is interested in abolishing detention centers, deportation machines and opening the borders.”
After the speeches, participants marched parallel to the OMDC while chanting, “No estan solos!”(Translation: “You are not alone!”) and “Abolish ICE,” so individuals in the center could hear. A banner was put up near the entrance of the center reading “Communities Not Cages.”
For more information on local immigrant rights struggles an actions, follow @freethemallsd and @pslsandiego on Instagram.