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ACLU Lawsuit Demands that Immigration and Customs Enforcement Release Elderly, Sick Migrants

— March 27, 2020

The lawsuit, filed in five states, demands that ICE release elderly and sick migrants who’re more likely to become seriously ill–or even die–during a coronavirus outbreak.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its allies are suing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in five different states, demanding the release of locked-up migrants with serious health conditions.

Immigration activists have been particularly concerned about the effects novel coronavirus might have within detention centers. While COVID-19 tends to present with mild symptoms among most young adults, it has presented far more aggressively among the elderly and people with pre-existing medical problems, including diabetes and asthma.

Without a cure for coronavirus on the horizon, state-level governments have been issuing shelter-in-place orders or stay-home advisories. But immigration detainees, unlike most Americans, can’t self-isolate and they can’t quarantine themselves in case symptoms to arise.

To that end, the ACLU is demanding that ICE at least release low-risk immigration detainees who are at an elevated risk for being hospitalized or dying from coronavirus. reports that the ACLU has filed lawsuits in Maryland, Washington, Pennsylvania, California and Massachusetts. In Maryland, the ACLU has filed its suit alongside the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and the CAIR Coalition.

“We’re worried that people who have serious medical conditions and are at risk of serious illness or death are going to face harm if nothing is done,” said CAIR Coalition attorney Adina Appelbaum.

Image via Pexels/Pixabay. (CCA-BY-0.0)

Appelbaum told DelmarvaNow that the law suit has two goals: the release of at-risk inmates, as well as the establishment of national precedent.

“People have a constitutional right to be safe when they’re in the custody of the government and that’s not possible right now with the current spread of coronavirus going into detention centers and these people need to get out to save their lives,” Appelbaum said.

Two of the plaintiffs in the Maryland case are being held at two different facilities: one in Howard County Jail, the other in Worcester County Jail.

“One of them has severe Type 2 diabetes and the other man has hypertension, prostate problems, heart problems, chronic pain and has an intellectual disability,” Appelbaum said. “They’ve both been part of the community in the U.S. for many years and they have strong claims for fear-based protection.”

“Our hope is that the District Court of Maryland will grant our emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and order the release of the plaintiffs,” she said.

While the ACLU has filed similar claims in Maryland and four other states, it’s also taking action against detention centers across the country. On Tuesday, for instance, the ACLU filed another lawsuit on behalf of thirteen immigration detainees in several California jails. Many of the suit’s allegations are similar, insofar as they claim ICE and its local-level partners aren’t doing enough to mitigate the spread of coronavirus within detention centers.


Detained immigrants sue ICE, say they can’t social distance in jail and fear severe coronavirus illness

ICE sued to free undocumented immigrants in Maryland, four other states amid coronavirus

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