Court overturns order aimed at protecting immigrant detainees from COVID-19

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A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Wednesday overturned a lower court order that forced immigration detention officials to monitor and sometimes release detainees who were at high risk of COVID-19 infections.

Two Trump-appointed judges ruled that the previous injunction had overreached in forcing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to track and establish guidelines for releasing high-risk detainees.

Judge Daniel Bress was joined by Judge Eric Miller in his ruling, while Clinton-appointed Judge Marsha Berzon dissented.

“The slew of national guidance, directives, and mandatory requirements that the agency issued and then frequently updated in the spring of 2020 belies the notion that ICE acted with the ‘reckless disregard’ necessary to support a finding of unconstitutional, system-wide deliberate indifference,” wrote Bress.

The decision written by Bress will allow immigration detention officials to return to immigration detention sanitary measures in place before the injunction ordered in April 2020 by District Judge Jesús Bernal, and will force ICE to scrap any policies put in place to comply with the injunction.

Under the injunction, ICE would have to categorize detainees by risk factors, as well as create better social distancing conditions and improve cleaning requirements, and consider releasing inmates at very high risk.

Upon review of ICE’s implementation of the original order, Bernal found the agency had not fully complied with his order and implemented even stricter measures.

Bernal’s order was issued as part of a class-action suit against the Trump administration at a time when COVID-19 infections were quickly spreading through immigrant detention centers.

The Biden administration did not withdraw the Trump administration’s appeal against the ruling, but it asked the 9th Circuit to enter mediation with the plaintiffs in September.

The 9th Circuit majority declined that request, arguing it came too late.

Immigrant rights advocates blasted the Biden administration for not dropping the appeal.

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center said “this is on” the Biden administration, reported the Los Angeles Times.

While Wednesday’s decision scrapped the original injunction entirely, plaintiffs can still appeal to the full 9th Circuit, which has a majority of liberal-appointed judges.

In her dissent, Berzon criticized the panel’s majority for not allowing the mediation process requested by both the plaintiffs and the Biden administration, and said Bress’s ruling exaggerated the extent to which the injunction imposed policies on ICE.

“Contrary to the majority’s suggestion, the district court’s remedy does not place all federal detention facilities under its control nor purport to set policy,” wrote Berzon.


Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 ICE Immigration

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