Press Releases

March 26, 2020

Advocates Seek Emergency Release Of Immigrants Detained In Unlawful Ice Raids

For Immediate Release: March 26, 2020

Media Contact: Camille de la Vega, 650-787-3675, cdelavega@publiccounsel.org 

ADVOCATES SEEK EMERGENCY RELEASE OF IMMIGRANTS DETAINED IN UNLAWFUL ICE RAIDS

Petitioners challenge constitutionality of arrests and continued detention—assert ICE placed them and thousands of others in danger during raids amidst COVID-19 pandemic

RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA – March 26, 2020 – Last night, Public Counsel and Kaplan Hecker & Fink, LLP filed an emergency petition for a writ of habeas corpus and application for a temporary restraining order on behalf of two immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Adelanto Detention Facility. The lawsuit seeks the release of the two petitioners for medical testing following their arrest and detention by ICE in a series of raids conducted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the first case of its kind to charge ICE with deliberately endangering the health and safety of detainees, ICE personnel, and the communities they come from.

 Last week, as government officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admonished every person in the United States to take preventative measures to avoid endangering others and slow the transmission of COVID-19, ICE officials decided to do just the opposite. On March 16 and 17, ICE officers forcibly removed petitioners—long-time residents of southern California—from their homes, physically handcuffed and restrained them, and confined them in transport vans and small rooms—all without taking necessary safety and health precautions to avoid COVID-19 transmission. Throughout the arrests, ICE officers without masks subjected the petitioners to close physical contact with both the officers and other detainees; one petitioner stated that he could feel an officer’s breath on his neck as they handcuffed him.

 “Deliberately flaunting public health protocols called for by the CDC, ICE weaponized a deadly national emergency and in doing so has seriously heightened the risk of contracting COVID-19 for our clients, detainees at the Adelanto facility, ICE personnel, and the families and communities of all involved,” said Mark Rosenbaum, directing attorney at Public Counsel. “While this nation was directed to stay home and practice social distancing, ICE took calculated measures that crowded detainees into tight quarters without proper sanitation safeguards in place. Already with a shoddy record for health conditions, Adelanto is now a super high-risk tinderbox for community spread of coronavirus. Our suit seeks emergency relief to stop the endangerment of our clients and Southern California.”

The petitioners assert that ICE violated their constitutional rights by affirmatively placing them in significant danger of contracting COVID-19, both during the raids and during their ongoing detention. According to the petitioners, ICE not only failed to take necessary preventative measures during their arrests, but continues to risk their lives—and the lives of everyone they encounter—by holding them in medically unsafe conditions at the Adelanto Detention Center.

 “ICE’s immigration raids in the midst of a global pandemic are unconscionable,” said Talia Inlender, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney at Public Counsel. “ICE knowingly risked the lives of not only our clients, but every single other person with whom they have since had contact, including their own agents. It’s time to put a stop to this unlawful and dangerous behavior before more immigrants and their families are ripped apart and placed in peril.”

The lawsuit includes an expert declaration from infectious disease specialist Dr. Ranit Mishori, an expert on public health among migrants and those in carceral systems, who advises that conducting immigration raids in the midst of this pandemic severely endangers public health, saying there is “a revolving door of exposure whenever raids are conducted.” Dr. Mishori highlights that raids, arrests and processing of incoming detainees require extremely close contact among numerous people – and expose healthy individuals who are detained to a far more dangerous situation than they would otherwise experience observing the shelter-in-place conditions currently in place in their home communities.

“In the midst of an exploding global pandemic that has threatened communities across the country, ICE conducted business-as-usual raids, needlessly tearing longtime Los Angeles residents like our clients away from their homes and families,” said Michael Skocpol, associate at Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP. “As a result, our clients are now crowded into detention facilities where they face grave health risks and cannot meaningfully protect themselves. ICE must correct this ongoing violation of their constitutional rights by releasing them immediately.”

 While Los Angeles County officials release hundreds of inmates to avoid the virus’s spread in jails, ICE continues to detain petitioners in unsafe conditions at the Adelanto Detention Facility—which even under normal conditions is known for its health and safety failures, and where ICE has failed to implement even the most basic precautionary measures to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.

“I am afraid for my health,” said Pedro Bravo Castillo, one of the petitioners detained at Adelanto. “I worry that if we were to get sick in here, they still would not let us out and we would have to stay in here alone and sick. I am also very worried about my family. Imagine how I feel not being able to see my children because the facility is closed to visitors due to the coronavirus….It is hard to put into words.”

The lawsuit highlights the unsafe conditions in detention centers: “People cannot practice social distancing as they would in the community when they are imprisoned in a detention center. People in detention centers are housed in tight dormitory conditions with shared sleeping, eating, and bathroom spaces, which allow for the rapid spread of infectious diseases…The close quarters exacerbate the risk that the introduction of COVID-19 into a detention center via a single person could rapidly spread throughout the facility.”

In the lawsuit, Dr. Mishori states that it is “inevitable” that detention centers in the United States will experience an outbreak of COVID-19 in the near future, and that cases of COVID-19 are already “beginning to appear in detention centers across the country.”

Legal documents:

·      Habeas Petition: http://www.publiccounsel.org/tools/assets/files/1315.pdf

·      TRO: http://www.publiccounsel.org/tools/assets/files/1316.pdf

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