HARRISBURG - A federal district court today ordered the immediate release of 22 people in civil immigration detention in two county jails in Pennsylvania, the second such ruling in the last week. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the ACLU’s National Prison Project and Immigrants Rights Project, and the law firm Dechert LLP, the 22 people who brought the lawsuit are all at heightened risk of getting seriously ill and dying if they contract COVID-19, which is far more likely inside a jail.
As of today, both ICE facilities in Pennsylvania have acknowledged positive COVID-19 tests among people who are incarcerated and staff, including four people in immigration detention and four staff at the Pike County Correctional Facility and one person in immigration detention at York County Prison.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania issued a statement in response to the ruling. The following can be attributed to Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“Our clients are at great risk of getting sick or even dying if they remain in immigration detention. The court understood that and recognized that the preventive measures in the jails are not working. Today’s ruling underscores the very real public health crisis that is occurring and will continue to occur in jails and prisons if corrections officials do not respond appropriately.”
The following can be attributed to Vanessa Stine, immigrants rights attorney of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“Today, we shared this emotional victory with our clients and their family members through tears and joyful shouts. We are grateful that the court is watching out for our clients' health, safety, and rights during this unprecedented pandemic.”
The following can be attributed to Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project:
“We are pleased by the court’s quick and decisive action in recognition of the urgent crisis posed by COVID-19. We have now filed 13 lawsuits around the country and seen more than 50 clients released. For our clients, a COVID-19 infection would likely be a death sentence. But we know from public health experts that this isn't enough — ICE must release many more people from detention if we are to avoid a humanitarian disaster."
More information, including a copy of the court’s order, is available at aclupa.org/Hope.