The Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the government of President Donald Trump on Friday to obtain information on the deaths and infections of covid-19 that occurred among detained migrants in what the group described as “one of the most lethal years.”
The lawsuit, directed against the Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE), argues that the government has not provided the documentation requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
“For much of this year, public health experts have warned that migrant detention centers would be sites for the spread of the pandemic,” the ACLU said in a statement in which it stated that the 2020 fiscal period, which ended on September 30, was the deadliest year in ICE custody in 15 years.
“In a year with so many disasters making headlines, the growing humanitarian crisis in ICE detention centers did not receive the kind of attention it deserves,” said Eunice Cho, an attorney for the ACLU.
“The abuse, neglect, and degradation our clients regularly face in ICE custody have worsened since the pandemic began. This year we have seen reports of sexual abuse, increasing use of force, solitary confinement, ICE’s attempt to minimize its role in the death of detainees, and hunger strikes in protest against conditions that are horrendous, “he said.
According to the ACLU, the ICE accounts for 490 active cases of covid-19 among detained migrants, “although the actual figure is likely much higher due to the limited use of tests” for the detection of the coronavirus.
On its website, ICE indicates that as of November 4, it had 402 people with active covid-19 cases in its custody. As of October 30, according to the agency, there were 17,458 migrants detained.
The ACLU used the example of the ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California, “where nearly 20% of those detained have tested positive for coronavirus.”
“Conditions are so poor that 118 women shared three showers, and detainees reported that they had to wait days before obtaining soap,” the statement continued.
According to Cho, “the decisions and policies that ICE employs during this pandemic are matters of life and death for tens of thousands of detainees and for the staff working in those centers.” The ACLU demands that ICE deliver documentation that refers, among other matters, to the transfer or deportation of detainees who tested positive for coronavirus or exhibited symptoms of the disease, and the planning that the Government has done since Trump arrived at the White House in January 2017, to handle possible infectious outbreaks.