Immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody are suing the federal government in an effort to be released into the United States amid the Chinese coronavirus crisis.
Thirteen immigrants, all of whom have pre-existing health conditions, are suing ICE in a demand that they be released from two California detention centers where they are currently being held. The immigrants range from 28 to 82-years-old.
The oldest plaintiff in the case — which has been filed by attorneys from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — is 82-year-old J. Elias Solorio Lopez, a Mexican national who was previously awarded a green card. Lopez is awaiting deportation while in ICE custody.
Another plaintiff in the case is 45-year-old Ricardo Vasquez Cruz of El Salvador. Cruz was granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) but never left the U.S. after his status expired. He is currently pending an immigration hearing.
The lawsuit claims that these 13 immigrants are having their Constitutional Rights violated because their fear of contracting the coronavirus constitutes as “cruel and unusual” punishment. The lawsuit states:
The risk that Plaintiffs fear — that the unsafe conditions in Mesa Verde and Yuba cause them to actually contract COVID-19, and that they will face a heightened risk of morbidity or mortality — does not need to become a reality for there to be a violation of their constitutional rights. A Due Process violation may arise, and a court may fashion remedies even before a plaintiff has contracted a communicable disease or such disease has spread within a facility.
While federal judges have already ordered the release of about two dozen ICE detainees, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has asked that all nearly 40,000 ICE detainees be released from federal custody and back into the U.S.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.