Louisiana News

Federal judges in Florida, California, Louisiana order ICE to release detained undocumented aliens

(The Center Square) — A federal judge in Miami late Thursday ordered the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to release more than 1,000 detained undocumented immigrants from three South Florida detention centers within the next two weeks.
In her 12-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke demands ICE reduce the number of detained “non-criminal and medically vulnerable populations” in the three centers from 1,400 to about 350 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect detainees with underlying conditions.
Cooke gave ICE until Sunday to submit a plan with steps to release detainees and to provide masks for every detainee at Krome Processing Center in South Dade, Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach and Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven.
Similar orders were issued Thursday by federal judges in California and Louisiana in response to immigrant advocacy groups and public health officials seeking the release of detained undocumented immigrants at “high risk” to the disease.
In California, Judge Dana Sabraw ordered ICE to identify and release detainees at a San Diego detention center who are at least 60 years old and with high-risk medical conditions.
In Louisiana, Magistrate Judge Joseph Perez-Montes recommended ICE release of 13 detainees in several centers.
“Under ordinary circumstances, ICE often releases civil detainees who do not pose a risk of flight or danger,” Perez-Montes said in his order. “Under these extraordinary circumstances, release is an even more viable option.”
Cooke found ICE has acted with “deliberate indifference” to condition of detainees and has “failed in its duty to protect the safety and general well-being of the petitioners.”
Seven Krome Detention Center detainees have tested positive for COVID-19. At least eight staff members have been infected at the same detention center, according to court records compiled by the Association Press.
Cooke said ICE officials at Krome violated 5th Amendment due process protections and the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Conditions at Krome are deteriorating daily, he said, and authorities have failed to practice social distancing protocols there are elsewhere.
“These failures have placed petitioners at a heightened risk of not only contracting COVID-19 but also succumbing to the fatal effects of the virus as some of the petitioners have serious underlying medical illness,” Cook wrote. “Such failures amount to cruel and unusual punishment because they are exemplary of deliberate indifference.”
At the Broward Transitional Center, the scene of protests Friday, the detainee population has declined by 35 percent with the release of those older than 60, ICE said.
ICE deferred comment on the ruling citing pending litigation, telling the AP and Miami Herald its policy is to review releases on a case-by-case basis and that it has released nearly 700 detainees from custody during the COVOD-19 emergency.
According to ICE, it has tested 1,030 of about 30,000 people in its detention centers across the country, 490 having testing positive.
The agency said in April that it would receive 2,000 tests a month from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to ramp up testing of detainees.
Two guards at an ICE immigration detention center in Louisiana have died after contracting the coronavirus. No detainees have been reported among fatalities. The agency has not issued site-by-site breakdowns of tests and positive results.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) took the lead in filing lawsuits against ICE on behalf of 34 detained immigrants. They claim there is no justification for keeping detainees engaged in a civil legal matter in crowded lockups amid a public health emergency.
The complaints included testimony from detainees who said there is not enough soap nor any attempt to impose social distancing protocols even though detainees and staff are exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
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