Department of Homeland Security

ACLU sues ICE, calls for some migrants to be released from Washington detention amid coronavirus crisis

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requesting that some detained immigrants in Tacoma, Wash., be released during the coronavirus outbreak.

The ACLU, in partnership with the ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), called on ICE to release migrants in civil detention at the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center who are at high risk for serious illness or death if a COVID-19 outbreak spreads to the facility.

Tacoma is located outside of Seattle, one of the hotspots for cases and deaths in the U.S. King County, which encompasses both locations, has recorded 420 confirmed cases and 37 deaths.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, will be litigated by ACLU’s National Prison Project, Immigrants’ Rights Project and NWIRP. The groups submitted testimony from public health officials to back the case.

Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at ACLU’s National Prison Project, said immigration detention centers “heighten the danger of disease transmission” for the detainees.

“In normal circumstances, ICE has proven time and again that it is unable to protect the health and safety of detained people,” Cho said in a statement. “These are not normal circumstances, and the heightened risk of serious harm to people in detention from COVID-19 is clear.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified people are at high risk if they have blood disorders, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, compromised immune systems, current or recent pregnancy, endocrine disorders, metabolic disorders, heart disease, lung disease and neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions.

Matt Adams, the legal director for NWIRP, said ICE should release all individuals who have these medical conditions.

“If it waits to react to worst case scenarios once they take hold, it will already be too late,” he said.

The Hill reached out to ICE for comment.

Public health officials have also said the older population is at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.

So far, more than 4,200 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the U.S., with 74 deaths and 17 recoveries, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Tags Coronavirus ICE immigrants Immigration and Customs Enforcement Immigration detention Lawsuit Tacoma Washington

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