Below is a letter from the North Carolina Council of Churches signed by 60 clergy from the state. They have gotten the attention of their congressional representatives and feel it would improve their position if they had colleagues in South Carolina and Georgia who had also received a similar letter from faith leaders. If you are interested in writing your representatives, the letter below contains the pertinent information. You may contact Jennifer Copeland, at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Rev. Jennifer Copeland, PhD
North Carolina Council of Churches
NC Council of Churches
Strength in Unity, Peace through Justice
May 12, 2020
Representatives Butterfield, Holding, Murphy, Price, Foxx, Walker, Rouzer, Hudson, Bishop, McHenry,
Adams, Budd, and Senators Burr and Tillis:
On behalf of the families of twelve North Carolinians currently detained at Stewart Detention Center write to ask you to take action to protect them from the immediate threat of Covid-19 infection and from violent retaliation by ICE Special Operations Response Team (SORT) officers.
We're asking you to:
1. Request that the Office of the Inspector General and the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security immediately to open up an investigation into the illegal use of SORT against immigrants detained at the Stewart Detention Center and other illegal forms of retaliation including use of solitary confinement and denial of phone privileges for reporting unsafe conditions.
And we request that ICE and CoreCivic:
2. Provide a weekly update on Stewart's current inmate census and how many have been determined to be medically vulnerable.
3. Provide a weekly report on the specific measures taken to protect detainees from infection, including provision of tests, masks, soap, sanitizer, and how many have been placed in medical isolation.
4. Provide a weekly report on transfers, releases and deportations from the facility.
We are asking you to intervene to protect the Constitutional rights and the lives of the people detained at the facility.
Our reasons for making this request include the News & Observer report published today documenting dangerous conditions at the facility along with other reports that have documented violence against North Carolinians housed at the facility. As The Intercept reported, on April 9 and April 22, SORT officers used violent retaliation against detainees who had been demanding medical attention, and, being ignored, began placing sheets on windows and doors. In one social media post about the incident, a SORT officer said he shot all the detainees in sight with pepper-ball projectiles — it was, he said, “call of duty mode,” referring to the violent, first-person video game series about going to war. Another officer gloated about having shot a detainee in a wheelchair.
On dozens of occasions, detainees have also reported retaliation for reporting to journalists or family members about hazardous conditions. This retaliation includes being placed in solitary confinement ("the hole") and having outgoing phone numbers to family members blocked, making communication with them impossible.
ICE and its contractor CoreCivic also continue to deny detainees potentially lifesaving interventions to protect them from infection. This includes denying access to medical staff and Covid-19 tests when presenting Covid-19 symptoms, not implementing measures to make social distancing possible, punishing them for wearing homemade masks, denying them access to any form of PPE or sanitizer,
severely limiting access to toilet paper and soap.
Jose Mauricio Flores Galindo, Raleigh resident, is one of the detainees who was denied medical attention after requesting an appointment for symptoms including fever and a cough on April 24. He was not permitted to see a nurse until April 30. Also included is Charleston, SC, resident Heyron Alfonso Maradiaga, who has not received any treatment for testicular cancer since being incarcerated on February 25, 2020.
ICE has admitted in recent court filings that guards at Stewart do not wear masks inside the facility, and there is no systemic testing available for them, despite the reality that at least 30 have tested positive. Even in federal court filings ICE continues to omit the specific steps it is taking to protect detainees, nor has the agency released a census documenting which inmates have been screened for risk factors and which are being released, transferred or deported. This information is crucial to understanding the agency's response to the virus and the extent of the danger posed to North Carolinians detained there.
Please let us know if you would like to speak about this issue or the actions your office can take.
The Rev. S.F. James Abbott, St. Matthias’ Episcopal Church, Asheville, NC
Father Carlos Arce, St. Anne’s Parish, Edenton, NC
The Rev. Ernesto Barriguete, Director of Multicultural Ministries, NC Conference of the UMC, Garner, NC
The Rev. Sarah Blaies, Christ Episcopal Church, Durham, NC
The Rev. Renee Burnette, Salem UMC, Durham, NC
The Rev. Dr. Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director, NC Council of Churches, Durham, NC
James G. Dickens, Oak Grove-Cedar Grove UMC, Ellenboro, NC
Fr. O.C. Edwards, Church of the Holy Spirit, Mars Hill, NC
The Rev. Timothy M. Ervolina, Trinity Episcopal Church/Church of the Advocate, Asheville, NC
The Rev. Dawn Flynn, New Life Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), Gastonia, NC
Kaye Fry, Stony Hill UMC, Albemarle, NC
Robert Fussell, First Presbyterian Church of Highlands, Franklin, NC
The Rev. Dr. Kate Guthrie, New Creation Community Church, Greensboro, NC
The Rev. Aaron Hayworth, The Church at Six Forks, Raleigh, NN
Pastor Louise Hilbert, The Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church, Durham, NC
David Hockett, Metro District UMC, Huntersville, NC
The Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, Durham, NC
The Rev. Randall Innes, Wake Forest UMC, Wake Forest, NC
Jay Kennett, Hillsborough UCC, Hillsborough, NC
The Rev. Avery Lail, Halifax UMC and Ebenezer UMC, Halifax, NC
Thomas Lineberger, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bessemer City, NC
Cody Robert Marks, Bethany UMC, South Mills, NC
The Rev. Erin Maxfield-Steele, St. George’s Episcopal Church of West Asheville, Asheville, NC
Austin Meadows, Bethel UMC, Pelham, NC
The. Rev. David Morris, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Outer Banks, Manteo, NC
The Rev. Tyler Muller-Yoder, Saint Francis UMC, Apex, NC
The Rev. W. Dale Osborne, Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, NC
The Rev. Julie Peeples, Congregational UCC, Greensboro, NC
Fr. Gerald Prickett, St. Matthias Episcopal, Alexander, NC
Samuel S. Rodman, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC
Fr. Robert Rutledge OSFS, Holy Infant Roman Catholic Church, Durham, NC
The Rev. Craig Schaub, Parkway UCC, Winston-Salem, NC
The Rev. Jeanette Stokes, Resource Center for Women & Ministry in the South, Inc., Durham, NC
The Rev. Susan Suarez Webster, Central UMC, Charlotte, NC
The Rev. Canon Nontombi Naomi Tutu, Cathedral of All Souls, Asheville, NC
The Rev. Dr. John H. Tyson, Haymount UMC, Fayetteville, NC
Isaac Villegas, Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship,Chapel Hill, NC
The Rev. Nancy D. Walton, Trinity UMC, Arden, NC
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Bishop, North Carolina Conference of the UMC, Raleigh, NC
People of Faith, Vicki Anderson, Central UMC, Charlotte, Mint Hill, NC
Leroy S. Anderson, Jr., Oxford, NC
David Charters, Christ the King Lutheran Church, Cary, NC
Barbara Clawson, New Creation Presbyterian Church, Burlington, NC
Richard M. Clifford, Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, NC
Virginia Clifford, Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, NC
Lucinda H. Glover, Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, NC,
Tommy Hart, Fletcher Chapel/St, Peter’s UMC, Hoffman, NC
L. Howard, Central-Charlotte UMC, Charlotte, NC
Mary Hulett, The Community Church of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Joyce Ingalls, Central United Methodist Church, Charlotte, NC
Denise Laux, United Church of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Meredith Menius, Ardmore UMC, Winston-Salem, NC
Paul Mitchell, Community Church of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Ashley Mcllwain Nissler, Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, NC
Charles Pettee, University Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, NC
Caryl Price, Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, NC
Cecilia Riley, Central UMC, Charlotte, NC
Sheryl Scrimsher, Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, NC
MaryJane Selgrade, Christ the King Lutheran Church, Cary, NC
Diane Steinhaus, Church of the Holy Family, Durham, NC,
Marian Taylor, Home Moravian Church, Kernersville, NC
Sibyl Wagner, Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, NC
Larry Ward, Central UMC, Charlotte, NC
Leona Whichard, Mount Carmel Baptist, Chapel Hill, NC
Louise Woods, Central UMC, Charlotte, NC
Lynn Wright, New Creation Community Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, NC
Francis Young, New Creation Community Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, NC
Margaret Young, New Creation Community Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, NC