Media Contact

Sirine Shebaya, NIPNLG, sshebaya@nipnlg.org, 202-656-4788
Sheena Pegarido, CAIR, media@caircoalition.org, 202-559-4431
Hanna Johnson, ACLU, hjohnson@aclu.org, 650-464-1698

May 7, 2020

All three petitioners in lawsuit from The National Immigration Project, CAIR Coalition, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Maryland have now been released due to their high risk of serious illness or death because of COVID-19

WASHINGTON (May 8, 2020) — The District Court has ordered the release of three detained individuals who were part of a lawsuit against U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), due to their high risk of serious illness or death because of COVID-19.

Two petitioners, who were detained in a facility in Worcester County, Md., were ordered to be released Thursday. One petitioner, who was detained in Howard County, Md., was released late last week, following news that a nurse who works in the facility had tested positive for COVID-19.

The release is in response to an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction order filed as part of a lawsuit The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Immigrants’ Rights Project, and the ACLU of Maryland filed in March.

“We are delighted for our clients, who have fought long and hard for their health and safety and can finally be safe from harm,” said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of NIPNLG. “But as COVID-19 continues to spread through detention centers like wildfire, we won’t forget all those who are left behind. One facility at a time, one state at a time, we will continue our fight in Maryland and across the country to seek release of all who are medically vulnerable and who continue to be in unsafe congregate environments at this time.”

“We are happy and relieved that our clients have been released, but our work is far from over,” said Adina Appelbaum, Program Director of the Immigration Impact Lab at CAIR Coalition. “While this is certainly a victory, we hope that the decision made in Maryland today can help similar cases around the country, with detained immigrants fighting for their lives while being detained in facilities not equipped to handle a pandemic.”

"We are thrilled that our clients will be free to return home and practice social distancing and other safety measures, but it isn't enough," said Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU's National Prison Project. "This week, we saw the first death in ICE detention. The warnings of public health experts are beginning to come true — COVID-19 is spreading rapidly through facilities, impacting detained people, facility staff, and their communities. ICE must release many more people if it is to avoid the worst of the humanitarian crisis we're facing. We will continue fighting to ensure that it does."

Nick Taichi Steiner, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Maryland, said: “We are ecstatic that all of our petitioners have been released and safe from the serious risk of contracting COVID-19 in a detention center. ICE has no concern for the health and safety of immigrants in their custody, and their misrepresentations to the Court illustrate the lengths to which they will go to abandon the human dignity of immigrants. Thankfully, Mr. A.G.C. and Mr. Kemcha will be released, and can avoid the serious risk of contracting COVID-19 that exists for people in detention.”

To access the court’s decision on the Worcester County Detention Center, click here. To access the court’s decision on the Howard County Detention Center, click here. To read the memo in support of a preliminary injunction, click here. To read the original complaint, click here.
 
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The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit organization that provides technical assistance and support to community-based immigrant organizations, legal practitioners, and all advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens. NIPNLG utilizes impact litigation, advocacy, and public education to pursue its mission. Follow NIPNLG on social media: National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild on Facebook, @NIPNLG on Twitter.

The Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition strives to ensure equal justice for all immigrant adults and children at risk of detention and deportation in the Capital region area and beyond through direct legal representation, know your rights presentations, impact litigation, advocacy, and the enlistment and training of attorneys to defend immigrants. CAIR Coalition’s Immigration Impact Lab seeks to reduce the disproportionate legal injustices detained immigrant adults and children face by expanding cutting-edge impact litigation to engender systematic change through legal precedent that benefits broad groups of immigrants. More information can be found at www.caircoalition.org. 

The ACLU of Maryland works to ensure that all people in the state of Maryland are free to think and speak as they choose and can lead their lives free from discrimination and unwarranted government intrusion. We are guided in our work by the United States Bill of Rights and the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The Maryland ACLU acts without partisanship to achieve these goals. The ACLU of Maryland is committed to centering race equity in our work, internally and externally, in order to better support and be accountable to communities of color, whose civil rights and civil liberties are systematically threatened by white supremacy.