On November 6, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of the District of Columbia, and Williams & Connolly LLP filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement after it failed to provide accurate data and documents on the status of the spread of the COVID-19 in the US immigration detention centers. The documents had been allegedly withheld by the government and were requested to be released to the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act, according to an official release.
However, in a statement, ACLU alleged that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hadn’t revealed the coronavirus pandemic case figures and deaths in immigration detention centers under the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19. “[The] defendants have withheld vital public health information necessary to safeguard the civil rights of detainees,” the lawsuit alleged. Further, it mentioned that there have been reports about the lack of even basic COVID precautions taken by ICE in the detention centers. “ICE has attempted to silence detainees who tried to speak out for better care,” it alleged.
BREAKING: We sued ICE and DHS to gain documents related to the agencies’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.— ACLU 🗳 (@ACLU) November 6, 2020
Fiscal year 2020 was the deadliest year in ICE detention in 15 years. Accountability and transparency matter.
Senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project, Eunice Cho said, “Abuse, neglect, and degradation our clients regularly face in ICE custody have only worsened since the pandemic.” She added, “There are allegations about sexual abuse, increased use of force, rampant use of solitary confinement, attempts by ICE to minimize its role in the deaths of detained people.” As many as 490 active cases of COVID-19 have been feared among people in the US detention centers, although, the ICE has projected an outbreak that has gone undetected due to limited testing. According to ACLU’s statement, Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California alone has nearly 20 percent of COVID-19 cases.
“We know, from discovery in more than 50 suits the ACLU has filed against ICE around the country, that the agency has fundamentally refused the basic precautions to keep people safe from COVID,” senior counsel at the ACLU-DC, Arthur Spitzer said in the release.
ACLU’s lawsuit is filed as previously Human Rights Watch, and the National Immigrant Justice Center had criticized US President Trump’s immigration policies and detention system’s paltry conditions with no medical care despite COVID-19 outbreak. A Human Rights Watch report released data from visits to five detention centers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arizona, and found three with virus outbreaks among detainees. The US as of November 6 recorded total of 9.6 million infections and 235,500 deaths from COVID-19.