San Francisco – April 21, 2020 – Cooley, alongside a coalition of legal organizations, filed a class action seeking the release of immigrants detained at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility and the Yuba County Jail from fundamentally unsafe conditions that endanger their health in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Filed against the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the lawsuit is the first of its kind brought on behalf of everyone at the facilities, more than 400 detainees. Partner Martin Schenker leads the Cooley effort.
“While social distancing is now ubiquitous in all corners of American society, and government authorities have been ordering reductions in prison and jail populations throughout the country, ICE’s detention centers remain a glaring aberration,” said Schenker. “With this case, we seek to avert a healthcare disaster in these institutions, both to protect our clients and to avoid overwhelming the healthcare systems in their surrounding communities.”
The legal coalition representing the detainees includes the ACLU Foundations of Northern California and Southern California, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and Lakin & Wille.
The case also challenges illegal retaliation against those protesting the unsafe conditions, after the detainees at Mesa Verde faced retaliation from authorities at the detention center for holding a hunger strike over their continued detention.
San Francisco Public Defender Manohar Raju said that “despite broad consensus among public health experts that these conditions will lead to an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, ICE has consistently failed to take necessary steps to protect the health of detainees.”
“This decision is an important step,” William Freeman, senior counsel at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, said in a statement. “The stakes for the release of detained persons are at an all-time high as the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak places them at an elevated risk of serious ailments or death.”
Read the full press release
Read the complaint
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