Coronavirus: Federal Judge Rules Migrants Must Stay in Detention Center

A federal judge in Seattle rejected three nonprofits’ effort to force U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release migrants in a detention center in Washington state because of the threat from coronavirus. U.S. District Judge James L. Robart on Thursday denied a request for a restraining order requested by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Washington, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. The organizations argued that holding migrants who are older or have underlying medical conditions puts them at high risk for contracting the virus. “There is no evidence that anyone at NWDC has COVID-19, and plaintiffs do not address the measures defendants are taking to prevent such a spread from occurring,” Robart said in a Law360 article on the development. Law360 reported on the ruling: ” Attorneys have told Law360 that they are concerned ICE is not prepared to handle a potential outbreak of the virus at the agency’s detention centers, where immigrants are trapped in communal spaces. ICE has been hit with numerous lawsuits accusing it of not providing detainees with adequate medical care, including an August complaint alleging the agency has been failing to ensure centers operated by private contractors are meeting the standards of confinement mandated by federal law and the U.S. Constitution.” Eunice Cho, an attorney for migrants, issued a statement vowing continued litigation. “Public health officials are in agreement — it is not a matter of if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in immigrant detention centers, but when,” Cho said. “ICE should heed their warning. By refusing to immediately release our clients, ICE is jeopardizing their lives and the lives of its staff and their families.” Law 360 reported that ICE responded Wednesday to the request for the restraining order, but the filing is not being made public. The case is Dawson v. Asher, No. 2:20-cv-00409 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Thanks to Judge Robart for this well-considered decision, especially given the current paradigm.

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