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Federal Judge Orders Release Of Immigrants Detained In ICE Raids during COVID-19 Pandemic

Pedro Bravo Castillo - seen here in ICE custody on March 16 - successfully petitioned for his release from detention over COVID-19 concerns. (Photo courtesy of Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Judge Rejects Government’s Argument that Petitioners Cannot Seek Relief Until COVID-19 is Confirmed at Adelanto – Orders Their Release “without delay.”

On March 27, 2020, Federal District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., granted an emergency Temporary Restraining Order filed on behalf of two immigrants at the Adelanto Detention Facility, ordering their release "forthwith and without delay." The judge rejected the Government’s argument that Petitioners cannot seek relief until there are confirmed COVID-19 cases at Adelanto, stating in his order that “The Government, here, cannot say, with any degree of certainty, that no one – staff or detainee – at Adelanto has not been, or will not be, infected with the coronavirus. The science is well established – infected, asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus are highly contagious.”

Read the TRO ruling HERE

"The Court's order recognizes what every public health expert has confirmed: immigration detention centers are a 'tinderbox' for this pandemic," said Talia Inlender, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney at Public Counsel. "We are thrilled that our clients will be able to safely return home to their families. It's time that ICE release all of those in harm's way at Adelanto and in immigration detention centers throughout the country, before it's too late."

In his order, Judge Hatter stated “the Government cannot deny the fact that the risk of infection in immigration detention facilities – and jails – is particularly high if an asymptomatic guard, or other employee, enters a facility.” And recognized the Government's unique responsibility to protect detainees: “The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits the Government from exposing an individual to a danger which he would not have otherwise faced.”

The two Petitioners, Pedro Bravo Castillo and Luis Vasquez Rueda were detained by ICE on March 16 and 17, respectively. The two longtime California residents were removed from their homes, physically handcuffed, restrained, and confined in transport vans and small rooms – without the ICE Agents 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. They are represented by the law firms Public Counsel and Kaplan Hecker & Fink, LLP, who filed the emergency petition for a writ of habeas corpus and application for a temporary restraining order late Wednesday night. 

Judge Hatter closed with the following statement: “This is an unprecedented time in our nation’s history, filled with uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. But in the time of a crisis, our response to those at particularly high risk must be with compassion and not apathy. The Government cannot act with a callous disregard for the safety of our fellow human beings.”

Read the press release HERE

Read the original press release HERE 

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