A group of legal organizations has sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seeking the release of illegal immigrants detained in Ohio.
The ACLU National Prison Project, the ACLU of Ohio, and the lam firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP announced Friday that they have filed a lawsuit against ICE “on behalf of immigrants detained in crowded facilities in Geauga and Seneca Counties.”
The lawsuit seeks the release of illegal immigrants who are in civil detention and at high risk of serious illness or death in the event that they contract COVID-19.
“For our clients, immigrants in crowded detention centers, social distancing is not an option. These facilities are incubators of COVID-19. ICE has a moral and legal responsibility to protect everyone in its custody,” said Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio.
“It must immediately release those who are elderly or who have other vulnerabilities that place them most at risk of serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19,” Levenson added.
The illegal immigrants cited in the lawsuit all have underlying health conditions, such as HIV, asthma, and high blood pressure.
The ACLU touted the fact that it has filed “15 similar lawsuits in states around the country.”
“We have now filed suits like this around the country because public health officials have been clear: detention facilities are disaster zones for the spread of coronavirus, and our clients’ lives are gravely at risk,” said Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney for the ACLU National Prison Project.
“This is a matter of urgent health and safety for people in civil detention, as well as the staff who work in these facilities every day, and the communities they go home to. Flattening the curve involves dramatically reducing the number of people in ICE detention so they can practice social distancing at home,” Cho continued.
The ACLU of Ohio was joined by CAIR, Catholic Charities, and several other organizations in sending a letter to county officials across the state that asked them to suspend collaboration with ICE. The letter was addressed to county commissioners and sheriffs in Butler, Geauga, Morrow, and Seneca counties, all of which have contracts with ICE for detaining immigrants.
“Cities and counties that collaborate with ICE by sharing information, participating in arrest operations, and holding individuals in jail in order to investigate their immigration status are placing their communities at greater risk for deadly consequences during the COVID-19 public health crisis,” said the letter. “Partnering with ICE perpetuates a fear of immigration enforcement within in the community, which can discourage immigrants and their family members from seeking necessary medical care and gathering essential supplies.”
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