ICE ordered to release NJ detainees at higher risk for COVID-19
At least 10 detainees with underlying medical conditions have been released from U.S. Immigrants and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody in New Jersey, under a court order amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
All 10 detainees were released from ICE custody Thursday night, according to Daniel Ball of Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) under the order from a federal judge.
Three of the individuals were at Hudson County Jail in Kearny, five were at Bergen County Jail in Hackensack and two were being held at Essex County Jail in Newark, Ball said,. All three facilities have reported either detainees, inmates or staff testing positive for COVID-19.
The individuals each have underlying conditions, including diabetes, severe heart disease, chronic asthma, pulmonary issues, history of hospitalization for severe pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to court documents.
“This is the first federal court in the nation to find that ICE is showing deliberate indifference to the safety of detained people who have medical conditions putting them at high risk if they contract COVID-19 – so much that their detention is likely unconstitutional and they must be immediately released," BDS New York Immigrant Family Unity Project attorney-in-charge, Andrea Saenz said in a written statement.
Saenz added "This was a huge victory, but we’re going to keep fighting to free them all.”
Previously, a 31-year-old Mexican national was released from ICE custody at Bergen County Jail March 26 after he tested positive for COVID-19.
There are several more pending lawsuits seeking the release of more detainees, according to Ball, who said "We continue to file more, as ICE has proven to be continually and deliberately indifferent to the basic needs of people in their detention, including the medical needs of fragile individuals."
As of Sunday, New Jersey reported 2,316 additional positive test results for COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in NJ to 13,386.
As of March 29, there were 61 deaths attributed to novel coronavirus in NJ.
Under a separate consent order, county jails across New Jersey temporarily released hundreds of low level offender inmates in attempts to slow the spread of the virus.
That order was agreed to by all county prosecutors, the state Attorney General's Office and the state public defender's office, as well as attorneys for ACLU NJ.