The coronavirus health crisis has drastically impacted Washington and New York states. There have been several cases, and the population there is more at risk than other parts in the country. It is because of this fragile situation that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project (NWIRP) has filed a lawsuit against Seattle-area ICE detention centers for the immediate release of individuals who face a heightened risk of illness or death because of the coronavirus.
The lawsuit demands that ICE release nine detained immigrants at a Tacoma, Washington detention center. The immigrant advocate groups say these nine people face a higher risk of being diagnosed with the coronavirus because of their age and other health-related issues. CBS News reports that the detainees named in the lawsuit include people that have “chronic health conditions, ranging from heart, liver and kidney diseases, to epilepsy and a spinal cord injury.”
Some of those people include a “Jamaican woman with autoimmune liver disease,” a “65-year-old Mexican woman who suffers from heart disease and hypertension,” “a Mexican man who survived a heart attack, and a Salvadoran man who uses a wheelchair and requires a colonoscopy bag and catheter, among others.
BREAKING: We’re suing a Seattle-area ICE detention center for the immediate release of individuals who face heightened risk of illness or death because of COVID-19.
As public health experts have repeatedly warned, waiting to react once the virus takes hold will be too late.
— ACLU (@ACLU) March 16, 2020
“Immigrant detention centers are institutions that uniquely heighten the danger of disease transmission,” Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project, said in a press release statement. “In normal circumstances, ICE has proven time and again that it is unable to protect the health and safety of detained people. These are not normal circumstances, and the heightened risk of serious harm to people in detention from COVID-19 is clear. Public health experts have warned that failing to reduce the number of people detained — and in particular, failing to release those particularly vulnerable to the disease — endangers the lives of everyone in the detention facility, including staff, and the broader community.”
As we reported earlier this week, despite travel restrictions and being instructed to stay home, immigration officials continue to transport undocumented children and adults to various detention centers around the country. Furthermore, ICE is also still conducting raids in particularly densely populated areas such as Los Angeles.
“ICE has the responsibility to protect the safety of all who are in immigration detention,” Matt Adams, Legal Director for NWIRP, said in a press release statement. “As a first step, it should immediately release our clients who have already been identified by the federal government as being most at risk because of this epidemic. If it waits to react to worst-case scenarios once they take hold, it will already be too late.”