TIFFIN — Local faith leaders and advocacy organizations are calling on Seneca County Sheriff William Eckelberry to take action to protect detainees, urging him to release immigrants from Seneca County Jail amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The NW Ohio Network for Immigrant Rights is calling on Sheriff Eckelberry to take immediate action to protect the over 100 immigrant detainees housed in the Seneca County Jail.
The Network is comprised of representatives from multiple faith groups, non-profit organizations, as well as concerned citizens, who act in solidarity with the immigrant community.
They outlined their concerns in a letter that was sent to the Sheriff Eckelberry. The letter was also sent to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Senator Rob Portman, Governor Mike DeWine, Ohio State Representative Bill Reineke, Ohio State Senator Dave Burke, ICE Field Office Director Michael Klinger, and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Director Chambers-Smith.
The Network says they are gravely concerned for the safety of all inmates currently located in Seneca County jail and urges the Sheriff to take heed of the many health advisories regarding prisons.
In order to make social distancing possible, the group says there is a need to depopulate the jail. Civil immigrant detainees and those with existing risk factors for more severe COVID-19 consequences should be considered for immediate release, the group says.
“There is a need to be pro-active to avoid a crisis, citing National Immigration Forum findings that 124 of 400 tested ICE detainees had tested positive from COVID-19. The serious threat of outbreaks in these facilities has already lead to lawsuits from the ACLU which resulted in the release of three immigrant detainees from the Morrow County Jail in Ohio, with additional cases still pending,” Beatriz Maya, director of La Conexion, said in a press release.
“We urged the Sheriff to take responsibility for human lives. The detainees were sentenced to detention, not sentenced to death. They deserve health, safety, human dignity, and respect,” Joy Noren, member of NW Ohio Network for Immigrant Rights, stated.
Eckelberry could not be reached for comment Friday. This story will be updated if/when a response is received from Eckelberry.
You can read the letter here: