13 coronavirus-vulnerable immigrants released from ICE detention centers

Cherri Gregg
March 31, 2020 - 8:05 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A federal Judge in Harrisburg issued an order Tuesday freeing 13 medically vulnerable immigrants who were in ICE detention centers across Pennsylvania. 

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“We are beginning to look to see if we can identify other sick and vulnerable folks that are inside one of these detention centers,” said Vic Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

The group filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of 13 immigrants detained by ICE in Pike, Clinton and York county-based facilities. They claimed the individuals are medically vulnerable to COVID-19, either because they are over the age of 60 or have pre-existing medical conditions, making them more likely to become seriously ill or die from the coronavirus, given the difficulty of social distancing and sanitization inside the cramped facilities.

“The risk is about one in seven, and it’s really no difference that taking a six-shooter and playing Russian roulette,” Walczak alluded. “People are double- and triple-celled. There are sometimes 40, 50, 60 people put in a single room, where they are sleeping on bunk beds just a few feet from one another.”

Judge John E. Jones noted that several of the petitioners had reported symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, and none of them have been quarantined, isolated or treated.

Three of the individuals were released on Friday, and the remaining 10 were ordered to be released on Tuesday. The ruling comes days after a corrections officer at the ICE facility in Pike County tested positive for coronavirus.

A spokesman said ICE continues to actively work with state and local health partners regarding additional testing or monitoring to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Lawyers are working to free more detainees.