The Legal Aid Society, The Bronx Defenders, and The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) won the immediate release of five immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention last night, April 12. The immigrants are at high risk of serious illness or death if they contract coronavirus due to their underlying health conditions including asthma, diabetes, and hypertension.

The lawsuit, Arriaga Reyes et al v. Decker et al, was brought in U.S. District Court in the District of New Jersey and sought a temporary restraining order amid mounting reports of egregious conditions at local ICE jails. Over 100 confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 are amongst detainees and jail staff at Bergen County and Hudson County jails in New Jersey.

There are thousands of immigrants still being held in ICE detention. The government continues to lock people in jail cells as those around them get ill and die from this virus. COVID-19 continues to spread and cause devastating harm at Bergen and Hudson County jails, and ICE refuses to release people back to their families while they fight their cases.

Currently there are possibly 35,000 people who are still being held in Immigration Detention faculties around the country. Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project Eunice Cho says, “We are arguing that this is really a disaster in the making, that ICE really must reduce numbers as soon as they can, otherwise there is for sure a massive sickness of death that’s gonna happen in these facilities.”

Many attorneys and legal offices continue demanding that all immigrants be released. Releasing people from immigration detention can protect their lives, the lives of staff, and public health. A growing number of courts around the country have ordered the immediate release of medically vulnerable individuals. Courts are recognizing both the enormous risk of harm that COVID-19 creates as well as ICE’s failure to sufficiently decrease the risk of harm.

Suchita Mathur, federal practice attorney with The Bronx Defenders’ Immigration team says, “We’re grateful to see the courts step in and help ensure that the most vulnerable people in detention get the relief they need. These decisions can be life-saving for the individuals impacted and their communities, and we will continue fighting to ensure as many people are released as possible.”