August 31, 2020
On the morning of Monday, August 31, Governor Newsom had the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) hand Patricia Waller, a Belizean domestic violence survivor, and Tien Pham, a Vietnamese refugee, to ICE. Patricia Waller survived decades of abuse and won her release from prison after fifteen years of incarceration. Tien Pham has been incarcerated since he was a child, and was granted parole by Gov. Newsom after two decades of incarceration.
Pham and Waller’s transfer to ICE, comes amid growing COVID-19 crises in California’s prison system, jails, and ICE detention centers in the state, and after a letter signed by 45 California legislators, in addition to dozens of key local leaders, urging Governor Gavin Newsom to halt the transfer of Californians from local or state custody to Immigrant and Customs (ICE) detention during the pandemic. Gov. Newsom also faces mounting pressure from public health experts, Black-led organizations, faith leaders, and countless advocates to stop ICE transfers from prisons and jails statewide.
The families and communities of Pham and Waller are devastated and anxious because their loved ones are now in ICE custody. “Patricia Waller is a kind and patient person. She trained me to be a construction worker while we were incarcerated,” said Maria Legarda, a friend of Waller’s who also experienced an ICE transfer. “All the supervisors went to her for help on special projects. Imagine how the community today would benefit from someone like her. She is a survivor of all sorts, and it’s a complete tragedy that Gov. Newsom let ICE take Patti away from her loved ones.”
Pham’s family waited for him outside of San Quentin State Prison on Monday morning, but could not embrace Pham on what was supposed to be his first day of freedom. “Tien has been living away from our family for over 20 years in prison. Every day the thought of him being safe in prison or not stresses us, especially our elderly parents,” said Lien Pham, Pham’s youngest sister. “Now ICE has taken him away from our family again. We worry for his adaptation, his health in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic and a high chance of COVID-19 exposure during the transfer, and above all the same mental stress my family would go through worrying for his safety.”
Gov. Governor Newsom has continued to ignore past warning signs of the dangers of transfers to ICE detention during the pandemic. New evidence has linked the transfer of people from various state prisons to the outbreak of COVID-19 in ICE detention facilities. ICE systematically deprives thousands of immigrants of liberty each day, with significant medical neglect and other human rights abuses.
Patricia Waller and Tien Pham will be transferred thousands of miles from their family and community to be detained in an ICE detention facility in Colorado.
Send notes of support to Patricia and Tien as they now fight their deportations: bit.ly/TienPattiNotes