ICE reports COVID-19 cases among NJ detainees, lets 2 more go
Two men with preexisting medical conditions have been released from custody by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which confirmed more COVID-19 cases at New Jersey facilities.
Both men, who are fathers, were being detained at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark.
The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency motion in federal court on March 29 seeking their release.
According to the ACLU, the first man, who arrived in the U.S. as a refugee from Russia over two decades ago, had open-heart surgery before entering detention and has diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The second man, also living illegally in New Jersey for more than a decade, has diabetes and high cholesterol and has been coughing up blood, the ACLU said.
Both men were released to follow the state-issued "Stay at Home" directive as of Wednesday, April 1.
By April 2, ICE had listed at least five cases of COVID-19 among detainees in New Jersey, and another two among ICE employees at facilities in NJ.
The most recent included a 33-year-old Dominican national and a 22-year-old Salvadoran national, both in custody at Hudson County Jail in Kearny, as well as a 40-year-old Salvadoran national in custody at Bergen County Jail.
That's in addition to single confirmed cases at Bergen County Jail and in Essex County on March 24 and 26, respectively. The 31-year-old Mexican national was released from custody in Bergen County shortly after, according to county officials.
As of April 1, an ICE employee at the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility in Union County and an ICE worker at the Hudson County Jail also had tested positive.
In a letter dated March 30, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J, asked that ICE "release non-violent detainees, who pose no public safety threat and those at high risk of getting severely sick" from the novel coronavirus.
"Reducing the number of those in detention is necessary to fight community spread of the virus and save lives," Menendez said in his letter to the Acting Director of ICE and the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
On March 26, at least 10 detainees with underlying medical conditions were released from ICE custody in New Jersey under a separate court order.
In his letter, Menendez cited a report that of "38,000 detainees in ICE custody, more than '60% of those detainees,'" or 22,936 people, do not have criminal convictions.”
"Immigration detention should not be a death sentence, but for our clients, it almost certainly is," ACLU National Prison Project senior staff attorney Eunice Cho said in a written statement. "It is unconscionable to keep people in civil detention under these circumstances."