Organizations advocating for civil rights are suing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in an effort to force the agency to release immigrants suffering from health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit targets detention facilities and says the centers are breeding grounds for the virus, and that ICE risks an outbreak that endangers the health of everyone within these communities, which already have few medical resources.
Three detention centers are named in the lawsuit
Two of the facilities – Webb County Detention Center and the Rio Grande Detention Center – are located in Laredo, while the other – the Port Isabel Service Processing Center – is in Los Fresnos. The lawsuit states that these facilities have failed to take actions to protect detainees from COVID-19, which violates their Constitutional rights.
They detailed the facilities’ failure to take steps to prevent the spread, such as not dealing with overcrowding, a lack of hand soap and hand sanitizer, inadequate medical care and continued interactions with guards who do not wear protective gloves or masks. As of April 16, ICE said 72 detainees have tested positive for the virus, along with 19 detention staff members.
ICE announces the release of hundreds of immigrants
The agency also announced that as of mid-April, it had released nearly 700 detainees across the country over coronavirus concerns after examining whether they posed any threat to public safety or national security as well as their immigration history and whether they constituted a flight risk.
ICE says it had released 245 detainees in New Jersey, which is experiencing the most significant infection rates among immigrants and staff members. The agency says most detainees were released with electronic ankle monitors to make sure they show up for later court dates.