Judge Grants Temporary Restraining Order to Consider Release of Immigrant Detainees

Emergency order responds to challenge from Cooley + coalition over conditions in two ICE detention centers amid COVID-19

San Francisco – May 1, 2020 – In an emergency order, a federal judge established a process to consider the release of immigrants detained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility and the Yuba County Jail, where conditions are rife for the spread of COVID-19. The lawsuit against ICE, filed by Cooley and a coalition of legal organizations, 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.

Granting a temporary restraining order and provisionally certifying a class of all immigration detainees in the facilities, US District Judge Vince Chhabria ordered ICE to provide information to the court about each of the detainees to facilitate considering their release in order to enable social distancing inside the centers. 

“Time is of the essence,” Judge Chhabria wrote. “The plaintiffs have demonstrated an exceedingly strong likelihood that they will prevail on their claim that current conditions at the facilities violate class members’ due process rights by unreasonably exposing them to a significant risk of harm.” 

As stated in the complaint demanding immediate release of 400+ detained immigrants, ICE has failed to take necessary steps to protect the health of detainees, despite broad consensus among public health experts that the conditions in detention facilities will lead to an outbreak of the coronavirus.

The judge recognized that “the conditions of confinement do not merely threaten detainees; they also threaten facility staff, not to mention the greater community whose health is put at risk by the congregation of large groups in cramped spaces.”

Cooley is representing the plaintiffs alongside the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, the ACLU Foundations of Northern California and Southern California, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and law firm Lakin & Wille.

Read the full press release 

Read the order

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