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On Monday, we filed a lawsuit suing a Seattle-area ICE detention center for the immediate release of individuals who face heightened risk of illness or death because of COVID-19. 

As public health experts have repeatedly warned, waiting to react once the virus takes hold will be too late. That’s why we and the ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project are demanding that vulnerable people at these sites be released now so they can practice the same social distancing and health precautions being asked of the rest of us.

Immigrant detention centers are particularly prone to disease transmission. Even in normal circumstances, ICE has proven time and again that it is unable to protect the health and safety of detained people in these close quarters.

These are not normal circumstances. And the heightened risk of serious harm to people in detention from COVID-19 is clear.

Public health experts have warned that failing to reduce the number of people detained – in particular, failing to release those particularly vulnerable to the disease – endangers the lives of everyone in the detention facility, including staff, and the broader communities they return to each evening.

This detention center is in Tacoma, Washington, which is just outside of Seattle – the epicenter of the first and largest COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. We have determined who should be released based on the age of detainees, as well as their underlying medical conditions, which public health experts have indicated will increase their risk of serious COVID-19 infection.

We’ll continue to watch closely to make sure that the government’s response is grounded in science and public health – not politics or xenophobia.

In solidarity, 

Eunice Cho
ACLU attorney, fighting for prisoner rights


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