Sza Sza’s story

Sza Sza Codner is a Jamaican trans woman and asylum seeker who has been detained for several years in immigration prison. Currently, Sza Sza is detained at Aurora Contract Detention Facility where others have tested positive for COVID-19. Despite the fact that they cannot prevent the spread of COVID-10 in these facilities, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) still chooses not to release Sza Sza.

Because of anti-Black racism, Black migrants in detention tend to be detained longer, be put in solitary confinement more frequently, be forced to pay the highest bond amounts to get out of immigrant prison, and experience other forms of targeting. Black asylum seekers like Sza Sza who have fled near deadly persecution are often denied asylum by immigrant judges which means being detained for longer periods of time while they appeal their cases and/or face deportation back to places they fled in the first place.

We urge you to help end Sza Sza’s indefinite detention and make it possible for her to live the life of dignity and safety she deserves.

In her own words

I’ve known about the coronavirus for a long period of time, but no information was volunteered to us about it in detention. I asked a guard what precautions they were going to take and he turned to me like he didn’t know what I was talking about. I asked the guard if we could have hand sanitizer and he said no because we would drink it. I told him we don’t even have appropriate soap; we are not given antibacterial soap. I don’t know what the soap they give us is made out of, but it’s not regular soap. If they say the soap they give us is helping, that’s an illusion. When I told the guard all of this—when I said the soap was worthless and pointless against the virus—he said that soap and water were the best disinfectants. I just want something antibacterial so we don’t get sick. Before I spoke up, they hadn’t given us any demonstration on how to even wash our hands properly.

When nothing happened after I spoke to the guard, I took my grievance to the captain. They told me they don’t have any cases here at the Aurora Detention Center. Later that day after I put in my grievance, I was coming back from pro-bono [legal services] and I saw a trans woman getting quarantined with my own eyes. I know she’s in quarantine because she was placed by herself and every time medical staff went into the cell they had masks and gloves on. Before she was quarantined, I know that girl was in another unit with many other people.

That same evening, all of a sudden the guards started wearing masks and gloves. I saw them wiping the door handles they touch and using Clorox for their own safety, but what are they doing for us? Nothing. The next day when I saw the guard again, the one who ignored [my concerns] and told me to use soap and water, he was wearing a mask. I said, ‘What are you wearing a mask for, you don’t have any soap and water? That’s what you told me yesterday.’ After that girl was quarantined they finally did a hand-washing demonstration, but they still haven’t given us proper soap.