Illegal immigrants detained at a York, Pennsylvania facility began a hunger strike, as they demanded the federal government to release them in fear of the deadly coronavirus.

Reports of the hunger strike first broke out when the Movement of Immigration Leaders in Pennsylvania announced that illegal immigrants held at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody were demanding their immediate release. According to the group’s letter addressed to Pennsylvania officials, there had been increasing concern over the safety and living conditions of the detainees.

Based on the letter, the group wrote that the immediate concern was that nurses in the facility do not have the proper protective equipment such as masks and gloves to fight the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. Moreover, the group also added that the detainees were worried that they might not have access to proper medical facilities in case they contracted the virus.

The group clarified that most of those who are under ICE custody were given bail. However, the movement continued by saying that most detainees do not have the capacity to pay for their release.

Moreover, the said organization implied that the detainees were non-violent offenders and did not impose a threat to the community. In fact, the group wrote that most of the illegal aliens were “hard-working people” and that they all wish to come home to their respective families amidst the deadly pandemic. The Movement of Immigration Leaders in Pennsylvania also claimed that most of the illegal immigrants were only arrested for minor offenses such as parking tickets, and driving without a license. The organization emphasized that “they have American kids, they’ve been here for half their lives.”

The group demanded that state officials should use the “appropriate mechanisms” to safely release the detainees at the Pennsylvania ICE facility. The group also asked to include those who already have pending deportation orders, as well as to stop the operation of the detention facilities in the state.

In addition, the group asked Pennysylvania officials to enact a “statewide sanctuary policy,” which will stop any local law enforcement to arrest illegal aliens. Currently, the group is still awaiting the state’s response to their letter.

Meanwhile, in other states such as New Jersey, US District Court Judge Analisa Torres, had decided that ten illegal immigrants under the ICE custody should be released. The decision was prompted by the fear of a coronavirus outbreak in the detention centers.

Overall, the country has approximately 40,000 detainees in custody. These include those who have crossed the border, as well as those who have overstayed their US visas.

The problem is that the hunger strike was not an isolated incident. In fact, in February of 2020, the Nation reported that five Indian men held at the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana had also staged a hunger strike as a means to protest their “prolonged confinement.” While one of them had already been released on bond, the four remaining detainees began a 104-day hunger strike. ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox told the Nation that there were 11 people on hunger strike in the state of Lousiana.

During a White House briefing last week, President Donald Trump assured illegal immigrants that they could be tested without any fear of deportation. “I think it’s important we test that person, and we don’t want to send that person back into wherever we’re going to be sending that person,” the president explained.