Federal Judge Frees Immigration Detainees on CCP Virus Fears

March 29, 2020 Updated: March 29, 2020

A federal judge has ordered that 10 immigration detainees be released from custody in New Jersey because their underlying health conditions are said to put them at an inordinate risk of contracting the CCP virus in secure facilities that are ill-equipped to combat it.

The legal action came as lawsuits are beginning to pile up around the country that seek the release of other immigration detainees for the same reason. Citing virus concerns, federal Judge Dolly M. Gee in Los Angeles, an Obama appointee, has ordered the government to “make continuous efforts” to release children in immigration detention centers.

Federal judges in Boston and elsewhere have also released immigration detainees because of infection worries. There are reportedly around 40,000 individuals in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. Pro-illegal alien activists are demanding most of them be released to reduce their exposure to the contagion.

The decision in the New Jersey case, cited as Basank v. Decker, was issued March 26 by U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.

In a 15-page order, Torres referenced a CNN report from March 20 that warned of a “tinderbox scenario” as the virus spreads to immigration detention centers and the resulting “imminent risk to the health and safety of immigrant detainees” and the public.

Acting on a petition from a left-wing group called Brooklyn Defender Services, Torres found that the detainees were entitled to immediate relief because many experts are concerned that county jails are hot spots for potential infection by the virus.

“The risk that Petitioners will face a severe, and quite possibly fatal, infection if they remain in immigration detention constitutes irreparable harm warranting a [temporary restraining order],” Torres wrote.

The judge also criticized ICE officials for supposedly failing to prepare for the outbreak and for not taking special measures to protect the detainees most vulnerable to infection.

Torres acknowledged ICE is screening detainees for the virus, isolating those who are suspected of infection, and improving the cleanliness of facilities, but wrote that agency officials have “exhibited, and continue to exhibit, deliberate indifference to Petitioners’ medical needs,” Torres wrote.

What ICE is doing is “patently insufficient to protect” the detainees, she wrote, adding that the agency could not provide “any information about steps taken to protect high-risk detainees.”

Torres ordered Thomas Decker, director of the New York field office of ICE, and the Hudson, Bergen, and Essex County correctional facilities in New Jersey “to immediately release Petitioners today on their own recognizance.” She also issued a temporary restraining order expiring April 9 at 6:30 p.m. that prevents ICE from arresting those individuals “for civil immigration detention purposes during the pendency of their immigration proceedings.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Decker’s counsel of record in the case, Michael Byars. James Margolin, chief public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, replied by email, “We will decline to comment.”

Critics reject arguments from open-borders groups such as the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which are urging that many immigration detainees be released on public-health grounds. SPLC lawyer Lorilei Williams told reporters that detainees need to be released because “this is just a really dire and critical situation.”

Thomas Homan, a former acting director of ICE, wrote in a column for Fox News that the “mass release” of “illegal immigrants from federal custody due to the coronavirus pandemic,” would be a “serious mistake and do far more harm than good.”

“We can’t afford to let the fear of the coronavirus spreading end the rule of law in our country,” he wrote.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed it to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.