Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) currently has approximately 600 detainees in Michigan that have been identified as “vulnerable” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These detainees are spread out between three jails in Calhoun, Monroe, and St. Clair Counties. Approximately 160 of those deemed vulnerable have been released already. The ACLU is looking to have the remaining 440 or so vulnerable detainees released amid this pandemic. To accomplish this, the ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit calling for the immediate release of these detainees because of the nearly impossible conditions and serious public health risk that these jails have. Social distancing is not an option for most all detainees when they are locked and housed in tight quarters with each other.
Who Is The ACLU?
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was founded 100 years ago in 1920. Initially a group of civil liberties activists, it is now an organization that has over a half a million active members and supporters. The ACLU has 54 state affiliate offices nationwide, along with an office in Washington, DC. The ACLU in Michigan was formed in 1959, some four years after activists for social justice joined and pushed the ball forward towards officially organizing into a state office. Currently, the ACLU tackles social justice issues with its legal team unafraid to go to court when necessary. The current target of the ACLU is ICE and their detainment of so many undocumented people during this dangerous pandemic.
The Current Situation With ICE
The current lawsuit filed by the ACLU against ICE argues that the continued detention of immigrants that are deemed medically “vulnerable” violates due process rights. The requirements to stop the spread of COVID-19 are basically impossible within the confines of an immigration detention center. Social distancing and strict hygiene are impossible luxuries that cannot be properly implemented in a place designed to hold many people in a tight area. In its filing, the ACLU includes written testimonials from many detainees within the jails which detail their stories and cases, along with their pre-existing conditions that are made more dangerous due to the spread of COVID-19. The filing also included testimony from two public health experts who discussed the current public health crisis, and the related danger from detaining people in close quarters surrounded by unclean and unhygienic conditions.
One testimonial from a detainee detailed his day to day living conditions; dormitories that house about 100 people each, with 50-60 bunk beds per dormitory. These beds are less than five feet apart from each other, with people still eating together multiple times a day when they have their meals. Another testimonial coming from a detainee in Monroe County states that numerous inmates are coughing along with an infestation of maggots at the detention center.
ICE has stated that they determine custody on a case by case basis reviewing the typical reasons why they would keep someone detained or allow them to be free pending their cases. These typical reasons include things like the detainee’s criminal and immigration history, their ties to the community and whether they pose a public safety risk if they are let free. ICE has already released some of those they have deemed most vulnerable. They have focused on those at greatest risk for COVID-19 exposure, those who are 60 years old and older and women who are currently pregnant. The ACLU argues that these measures don’t go far enough and don’t properly protect all those who are most vulnerable in ICE detention.
Any Further Questions?
If you or someone you love is facing an issue related to ICE or an immigration/criminal charge it is important to seek the advice of a qualified criminal defense attorney. At Grabel & Associates we are happy to offer a FREE consultation to anyone who has questions about their case or a loved one’s. Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients facing criminal charges all over the state of Michigan. Feel free to reach out to us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide offices. We can also come to you.