The American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit requests federal records of the response to COVID-19 in immigration detention centers.
A leading civil rights organization in the US has filed a lawsuit to force federal agencies to release information about the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 in immigration detention centers.
In a statement Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Services (ICE) had not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request filed in May got into the records of the coronavirus pandemic.
“[The] Defendants have withheld vital public health information necessary to uphold the civil rights of detainees, ”the ACLU said in its lawsuit investigating whether detainees who test positive for COVID-19 have been deported from the United States .
Other information requested includes, among other things, suspected or confirmed exposures related to prisons, access to personal protective equipment, and coronavirus testing.
“As [the] Defendants put their feet up, immigrants and prison staff continue to be infected and die of COVID-19, ”the lawsuit also says.
The lawsuit comes after rights groups and immigration advocates repeatedly raised concerns that immigrant detainees in cramped detention centers are at greater risk of COVID-19 infection.
The immigration policies of President Donald Trump’s administration, particularly the separation of parents from their children and the imprisonment of children, have received widespread criticism.
In September, a nurse who worked at an ICE facility in Georgia state that inmates had wrongly received hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures while in custody.
The US has the highest confirmed number of COVID-19 cases and deaths related to the new coronavirus in the world. More than 9.6 million infections and more than 235,500 deaths were reported on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
While the defendants drag their feet, immigrants and prison staff continue to become infected and die of COVID-19
“Escalating Humanitarian Crisis”
ICE says on its website that 402 inmates were diagnosed with COVID-19 on November 4th and were either isolated or monitored. The El Valle Detention Center in Texas had the most infections at 43.
“In agreement with its federal partners, ICE is taking important steps to further protect the people we care for. As a precautionary measure, ICE has temporarily suspended social visits in all detention facilities, ”said the agency.
“The health, welfare and safety of US immigration and customs detainees is a top priority for the agency.”
However, Eunice Cho, a senior lawyer for the ACLU’s national prison project, said inmates at ICE facilities “abuse, neglect and humiliation” only worsened during the pandemic.
The ACLU has received reports of alleged sexual abuse, violence, solitary confinement and other abusive conditions, Cho said in Friday’s statement, and “the escalating humanitarian crisis in ICE detention centers has not received the kind of alarm it deserves.”
“The decisions and policies ICE is using to manage this pandemic are a matter of life or death for tens of thousands of detainees and the staff who work at these facilities,” Cho said.
“It is simply unacceptable for this agency to believe it can act with so little transparency and accountability.”