Terry Hatter Jr, a California judge appointed by Jimmy Carter, has ordered an ICE detention center to release 100 detainees by Monday.
OC Register reports a federal judge in Los Angeles on Thursday ordered immigration officials to reduce the number of immigrant detainees at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center to a level that would allow the remaining detainees to stay six feet apart from each other during the pandemic.
Judge Terry J. Hatter, in a ruling late Thursday, said the facility must reduce the detainee population, starting with the release of at least 100 immigrants by Monday, April 27.
The detainee population, the judge wrote in his ruling, must be reduced from its current level – approximately 1,300 men and women – to “a level that would allow the remaining detainees to maintain a social distance of 6 feet from each other at all times and at all places, including while sleeping, eating, showering, and going about other daily activities, except when there is a medical necessity or a safety emergency.”
Hatter granted a preliminary injunction requested by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, which filed a lawsuit on April 14, alleging that conditions at the facility endangered the lives of detainees during the coronavirus pandemic. The detainees – unauthorized immigrants who are being held while their cases are processed – live in crowded, unsanitary conditions that make them more susceptible to coronavirus, the ACLU argued.
“We are very glad that the court has recognized that the constitutional rights of immigrants are as important as the constitutional rights of us all,” said ACLU attorney Minju Cho.
Immigration officials have until May 4, Hatter wrote, to comply with the ruling. There are three ways they can achieve the goal, according to the judge: release detainees, deport detainees who have final orders of deportation and have exhausted all appeals, or transfer detainees to other facilities where they are able to maintain a 6-foot social distance from each other “at all times and at all places.”
In addition to releasing at least 100 detainees by next Monday, Hatter ordered the release of at least another 150 by April 30.
Hatter did not specify how many immigrants altogether would have to be released, deported or transferred to achieve the goal of maintaining social distance.
Cho, the ACLU attorney, estimates that it could be more than 75% of the people currently there.
“(The judge) found the bunk beds are not six feet apart. He also finds that any sleeping room or cell that contains a toilet without a lid must be limited to a single occupant,” Cho said. “None of the toilets at Adelanto have a lid.” And most detainees are in cells of four, some in cells of eight, sharing a toilet, she said.
“When you put all these pieces together, it leads to at least a 75% reduction” in the facility’s operation, she said.
Hatter wrote that any detainees who are transferred to a facility where they can’t maintain six feet apart or “where the cleaning standards of that facility do not comply with the standards required by this preliminary injunction,” will then be “immediately released from detention by the court.”
The judge recommended that those who are older than 55 or have pre-existing conditions be given priority preference, as well as other detainees who do not have a criminal history.
Until there’s a final resolution to the case, Hatter ordered the Adelanto facility in San Bernardino County to not accept any new detainees.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday night. If they appeal, that appeal will likely be taken up on an emergency basis given the timing of the judge’s order, Cho said.
Cho called Hatter’s ruling “powerful.”
“The judge really recognized that the conditions at Adelanto are inhumane and unconstitutional and that the government has been deliberately indifferent to the risk that all detainess have because of COVID-19.”
The ACLU recently won another case before Judge Hatter, when he ordered ICE officials to release six immigrant detainees with underlying health conditions from the Adelanto facility.