(Updated) Amid COVID-19, Long Beach Immigrant Family To Be Reunited By Support From Community Fundraiser

Jun. 8, 2020 / By

A flier used by community organizations to promote Nicolas’ bail fund. Courtesy of the Sanctuary Long Beach Coalition.

 

UPDATE: On June 9, the Sanctuary Long Beach Coalition announced that it has now reached the amount needed for Nicolas’ bail. A representative from the Coalition has told VoiceWaves that funds from the “Bring Nicolas Home” GoFundMe that are not used for Nicolas’ bail will go to the Long Beach Liberation Fund, a bail fund for Long Beach immigrants. We have edited our headline and the article summary below to reflect this change.

 

  • Nicolas, a Long Beach resident and father of four, has been detained at the Adelanto Detention Facility since March 1.

  • “Haydee,” Nicolas’ wife, has been out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has found it hard to pay the family’s bills.

  • The Sanctuary Long Beach Coalition announced on June 9 that donations from community members and organizations have helped secure the $23,000 for Nicolas’ bail, and they will be working on getting him home.

 

Editorial note: Advocates have long warned of COVID-19’s potential to spread inside detention centers and jails, which disproportionally impacts Black and brown people due to higher incarceration rates when compared to their white counterparts. Here, Youth Reporter Carlos Villicana reports on how one family has been impacted by their loved one’s detainment. 

 

 

LONG BEACH, CA — Life as we knew it changed when stay-at-home orders were announced in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic reached the city. But for one Long Beach immigrant family, their life was upended just a few weeks before.

On March 1, Nicolas, a Long Beach resident, was detained by ICE outside of his home. Since then, his family has been trying to pay his bail to get him out of the Adelanto Detention Facility in San Bernardino County.

“This is an opportunity for them to fight their case on the outside, rather than continue staying inside of Adelanto,” said Jennifer Benitez, a community organizer with the Sanctuary Long Beach Coalition, which is helping Nicolas’ family with raising funds for his bail. The family requested Nicolas’ last name not be mentioned due to legal concerns. 

The economic fallout from COVID-19 had already made the family’s ability to pay their bills harder. Now, Nicolas, the family’s breadwinner, is facing $23,000 for bail, due June 14 for his release. The family is trying to fundraise the remaining $21,000 they need to pay.

“It’s been hard because with Nicolas locked up over there, then COVID-19 and me being left without work… it’s harder to have to live with this and try to pay to get Nicolas out,” said Nicolas’ wife, who asked to be identified as “Haydee,” in Spanish.

What has made the situation harder for immigrant families is stiff resistance from the Trump administration to aid immigrants. Many undocumented people have been excluded from economic aid, such as stimulus checks and unemployment benefits, during a time when many have been unable to work. The service jobs they’re commonly employed in shut down, seemingly, overnight.

Due to stay-at-home orders, Haydee’s four children haven’t been able to see and visit their father for three months. While they have had phone calls with him on a daily basis, they still want him to be home as soon as possible.

“They’re frustrated, tense, and sad. They want to do so many things [with him]. They always want to be talking with him,” Haydee said.

However, even having those conversations have left Haydee anxious, as she worries about being monitored during their phone and video calls.

“We’re happy when we get to talk to the person, our family member that’s inside,” Haydee said. “But when I hang up, I tell myself ‘hopefully I didn’t say something . It’s very hard and very worrying.”

For months, advocates have been sounding the alarm on COVID-19’s potential spread in detention centers and jails. The virus has left Haydee worried for her husband.

At least one detainee at Adelanto has tested positive for COVID-19. An ICE spokesperson told the Desert Sun that the detainee has been quarantined and is receiving treatment, while those they could have exposed to COVID-19 are being monitored.

Other conditions in Adelanto, a detention center operated by The GEO Group, Inc., have received criticism from and inspired rallies by immigrant rights advocates. 

Detainees have complained of a disinfectant used to clean the facility, HDQ Neutral, leading to “bloody noses, burning eyes, headaches”, and pain in their bones, according to a complaint filed by the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants.

In a statement to LAist, ICE said disinfectants used at Adelanto are compliant with Environmental Protection Agency standards.

The center has also been criticized for “unsanitary conditions” and easing the spread of COVID-19 among detainees.

As of this writing, the family has been able to raise over $11,700 with the help of local immigrant rights advocates, totaling a little over half of the amount needed to post Nicolas’ bail. Haydee worries she will not have enough time to pay the full amount.

“What do you think I’m going to feel? I almost fall back thinking of it… It’s a lot of money,” she said. “One is already struggling with rent, the bills, and everything, and to now suddenly have to find that amount… is very frustrating.”

For Nicolas to be released, the bail must be posted before June 14.

“One doesn’t sleep. One can’t rest thinking of this, and praying… and checking the fund frequently to see how much it is at,” Haydee said.

While the family has been unable to pay rent for two months, Haydee said that their priority at this time is gathering the funds needed to get Nicolas out.

“All help is welcome here,” Haydee said. “But my priority right now is that he is out of there.”

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Carlos Omar

Carlos Omar

Carlos is a longtime resident of North Long Beach who graduated from CSULB's journalism program in 2019. While there, he held multiple editorial positions at the Daily 49er and served as managing editor for the inaugural edition of DIG en Español. His passion for social change was sparked by growing up in an underinvested portion of the city, and continues to be fueled by the desire to see a day when all people live in healthy communities.