Doctors from throughout Maryland gathered outside Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Baltimore field office Sunday as part of a weeklong national vigil to demand ICE detainees be released because of fears of the coronavirus.
They argue that the cramped conditions in the jails are especially dangerous during this pandemic.
Dr. Kate Sugarman, from Montgomery County, was one of the health care workers dressed in a white lab coat holding a yellow banner emblazoned with FREE THEM ALL in bright green letters. She said she examines ICE detainees who are seeking asylum in the United States.
"I document their scars of torture from their countries of origin," she said. "So if people have been burned or beaten or whipped and then they come to America seeking asylum, I document these scars as part of their evidence. So I’ve seen the conditions in the jail firsthand."
And those conditions, she said, are ripe for an outbreak in one of Maryland’s three facilities.
Cases of detainees with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, have been reported in ICE detention facilities around the country. Several ICE facilities in New Jersey have had outbreaks of COVID-19, with a number of staff and detainee deaths.
Thousands of viewers logged on to the event, streamed live on Facebook, joining the healthcare workers in the protests organized by Doctors for Camp Closures, an immigration advocacy group.
ICE officials have released hundreds of detainees during the last few months, but only a small number of detainees have been tested for the coronavirus. And of those, half tested positive, according to ICE.
Healthcare workers say that is a chilling percentage.