A federal judge on Thursday rejected the ACLU’s emergency demand that illegal immigrants at risk of coronavirus complications be released from an ICE detention center in Washington state, saying there’s no evidence any of them are in danger of contracting the disease.
Judge James L. Robart said if things get worse that might change, but for now the migrants named in the lawsuit didn’t show any special risks.
“There is no evidence that anyone at [the facility] has COVID-19, and plaintiffs do not address the measures defendants are taking to prevent such a spread from occurring,” wrote the judge.
And even if they had shown risks, release isn’t the automatic answer. Instead, he said, the migrants could ask for steps to be taken to improve conditions.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project had asked the judge for a temporary restraining order compelling release.
“We will continue to fight for our clients, who face tremendous danger to their health while in detention,” said Eunice Cho, an ACLU lawyer. “Public health officials are in agreement — it is not a matter of if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in immigrant detention centers, but when. ICE should heed their warning.”
ICE has confirmed that it did isolate some detainees in a detention center in Colorado, but has yet to publicly confirm any COVID-19 cases at the facility in Tacoma, Washington.
The ACLU had argued that was particularly dangerous because of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Seattle area.
In court filings, one of the plaintiffs, a Cuban woman, said she suffers from epilepsy, high blood pressure, an ovarian cyst and lifelong respiratory problems.
“I already do not feel well in detention and do not believe I am receiving sufficient medical treatment for my existing conditions. I am scared that the treatment here would not be sufficient if I get COVID-19,” she said in a declaration to the court. “We are enclosed in such close quarters here. If anyone is infected here, it will infect us all. We are all afraid.”
Another Mexican woman who said she has high blood pressure, asthma and depression, said she too is worried about being confined amid the virus spread.
“They do not have the capacity to treat us here, and when they do give us medical treatment, it’s not sufficient or good. Imagine if they had to treat many of us,” she wrote to the court.