A legal campaign to force the release of at-risk immigration detainees escalated as officials announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in someone being held for immigration violations, reports Politico. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said a 31-year-old Mexican national held at the Bergen County, N.J., Jail tested positive for COVID-19. The agency said the person “has been quarantined and is receiving care” and that it has suspended sending immigration detainees to that jail. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., set a Monday hearing on a request for a temporary restraining order that would release 37 immigrant families held at detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania. In California, a lawsuit was filed seeking freedom for 13 immigration detainees at facilities in Bakersfield and Yuba County. Unless they are released, “they, along with many other detained individuals, will face dramatically increased chances of contracting COVID-19, becoming seriously ill, and dying,” said the case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and three other legal entities.
The suit says releasing the most at-risk detainees would also ease crowding at the centers and reduce the danger to other prisoners. ICE that in addition to the COVID-19 case in New Jersey, an ICE detention worker in Elizabeth, N.J., has also tested positive. There are also 18 confirmed cases among ICE nondetention personnel, the agency said. The Nation magazine said that as of March 19, nine ICE detainees were in medical-related isolation and 24 more were being monitored for medical issues. It was not immediately clear whether all were suspected of being infected with coronavirus.