Prepared Testimony to Imperial County Board of Supervisors Regarding Data Collection and Decarceration

The following is a prepared testimony delivered to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors by Crystal Quezada, senior community advocate in Imperial County for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. 

Good Morning Board Chair Plancarte and Supervisors Escobar, Castillo, Ryan Kelley and Michael Kelley.

My name is Crystal Quezada. I am the senior community advocate in Imperial County for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

We are here today to urge the Board of Supervisors to ensure that Imperial County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is grounded in science, data-driven and aligned with our region’s shared values of fairness, compassion and public safety.

By centering our collective response on meeting the needs of the region’s most vulnerable communities, we can ensure an equitable and efficient response that is inclusive of all people in Imperial County.

We continue to call on the county to collect, and share with the public, additional demographic data associated with COVID-19 testing, confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Data collection is essential. We cannot manage what we do not measure.

This pandemic has exposed deeply rooted inequities in our region, state and nation.

We see clear evidence of its disproportionate impact on people of color, especially in our Latino and Black communities. As of July 6, Latinos represent 48 percent of known positive COVID-19 cases and 93 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Imperial County. However, we don’t know the ethnicity of 50 percent of the county’s positive COVID-19 cases.

Although the Imperial County Public Health Department has released race information on their dashboard, the county must provide additional patient demographic data including gender identity, disability, socioeconomic status, primary language, and whether a person is an essential worker.

We know that the workers deemed essential during this time are more likely to be Black and Latino and in low-wage, no-benefit jobs. We should have data broken down by industry, and other key metrics for all confirmed positive cases to understand how this pandemic is affecting our community and to direct resources where they are most needed. This should be done in a way that protects an individual’s privacy.

Capturing COVID-19 demographic data is now more crucial than ever to ensure the county’s response and future discussions about reopening, once state requirements are met, center equity.

It is also imperative that the county continues to reduce the number of children and adults in its custody. CDC guidelines for social distancing and hygiene are impossible to comply within jail.

According to the Sherriff’s Department, here are 179 people in Imperial County jails, as of July 6 and 16 staff and 23 incarcerated people had tested positive to COVID-19.

In addition, we’ve seen news reports of poor sanitary conditions inside the county jail. Such conditions jeopardize the well-being of people in custody, jail staff, their families and the communities in which they live.

We urge you to call on Chief Probation Officer Dan Prince, Sheriff Raymond Loera and District Attorney Gilbert Otero to protect lives by releasing as many children and adults as quickly and safely as possible.

We call on you to ensure that people in the county’s custody have access to personal protective equipment, personal hygiene products and other sanitary supplies. The county should also provide information regarding COVID-19 testing, hospitalizations and deaths in our jails.

We the people are counting on you, our elected representatives, to act responsibly in this unprecedented public health crisis.

Thank you.