Immigrants' rights groups sue ICE to release Maryland detainees at risk of serious illness or death due to COVID-19
Immigrants detained in the Worcester County Detention Center and the Howard County Detention Center in Maryland sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement with the help of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (CAIR Coalition), the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Maryland. The lawsuit seeks the release of six individuals and a class of medically vulnerable detained people who are at high risk for serious illness or death in the event of COVID-19 infection due to age and underlying medical conditions.
COVID-19 is a global pandemic, and public health experts have repeatedly warned that people detained in immigrant detention are at particularly high risk due to conditions that are often overcrowded and unsanitary. The filing is on behalf of six individuals who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and lymphedema. The filing also includes declarations from public health experts, such as Dr. Robert Greifinger, who speaks to the public health risk for our plaintiffs.
On April 30, 2020, Mr. Mauricio Coreas was ordered released from the Howard County Detention Center (HCDC). The inadequate mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, coupled with a confirmed positive case in HCDC, necessitated Mr. Coreas’ release to prevent contracting the disease that could prove fatal.
In the Court’s opinion, “the lack of any social distancing measures, the lack of any accommodations to protect detainees with high-risk health conditions, and the lack of any testing for COVID-19 as notable deficiencies . . . [and] although some additional measures have been adopted. . ., such as the wearing of masks inside the facility, none of these identified deficiencies have been addressed.”
The Court also stated that the presence of the Coronavirus at HCDC would likely result in “a constitutional violation because in that circumstance, the deficiencies in the mitigation measures in effect at that time would establish deliberate indifference to the health and safety of a high-risk detainee such as Coreas.”
Since the Court’s decision on April 30, one other individual plaintiff has been released from the Howard County Detention Center.
On May 7, 2020, the Court issued a separate order, releasing two of the detained plaintiffs at the Worcester County facility.
Although several named plaintiffs have been released, the case continues, and two individuals in the Howard County Detention Center remain in detention, who have underlying health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to serious illness or death from COVID-19.
As of June 4, 2020, ten staff members at the Worcester County Detention Center and three staff members at the Howard County Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19.
It is only a matter of time before a major outbreak among the immigrant population in detention will take hold.
PRESS RELEASE: ACLU of Maryland (March 24, 2020)
PRESS RELEASE: ACLU (March 24, 2020)
Coreas v. Bounds: Complaint
Coreas v. Bounds: Declaration of Dr. Ranit Mishori