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Judge orders 11 at-risk ICE detainees released over coronavirus fears

Judge orders 11 at-risk ICE detainees released over coronavirus fears
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A federal judge in Pennsylvania ordered the release of 11 immigration detainees over concerns that their health could be in jeopardy if they contracted coronavirus in detention.

The 11 detainees, plus two others in the suit who have already been released, were all found to have health risks that could place them in substantial danger should the coronavirus spread within York County Prison, the facility used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold them.

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Hill on this story.

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United States Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania John Jones listed the potentially comorbid conditions of each detainee, which ranged from diabetes to leukemia to high blood pressure.

Jones rejected an argument by government lawyers that the detainees would not be in danger until the pandemic struck the facility.

"Respondents would have us offer no substantial relief to Petitioners until the pandemic erupts in our prison. We reject this notion," wrote Jones.

The detainees, represented through the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sought release arguing York County Prison conditions are such that social distancing and other coronavirus safety measures are impossible.

The York Daily Record reported Sunday that detainees in the prison were refusing to eat, striking against prison conditions out of fear of contracting coronavirus.

Judges around the country are reviewing similar lawsuits, as immigrant-rights advocates warn that an outbreak in any detention center could spread like wildfire.

A federal judge in Washington state gave ICE a week to prove it can enact proper safety measures in family detention centers, threatening to "revisit" a suit where petitioners asked for the release of thousands of detainees.

The ACLU has similar lawsuits going on in six different districts, according to a spokeswoman for the organization.