SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — A federal judge has turned down a petition by the American Civil Liberties Union to release 34 “medically vulnerable” detainees from the Otay Mesa Detention Facility in San Diego.
The judge decided the detainees should remain in custody because U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, deems them “dangers to the community.”
The ACLU had filed a lawsuit asking the court to release all detainees over the age of 45 and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
The Otay Mesa Detention Center has the largest COVID-19 outbreak among the nation’s ICE facilities. According to ICE, 158 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19. Other sources place the number closer to 200.
More than a dozen employees and medical personal have also tested positive.
Earlier this month, a detainee who got the virus at the detention center, became the first ICE
detainee to die from COVID-19. He died after being taken to a hospital.
So far, the ACLU’s lawsuit has resulted in the release of 99 detainees, but it could not secure the release of the 34 detainees who are being held by the U.S. Marshals Service and are awaiting criminal cases.
“We are disappointed with the court’s decision. We know the life-saving measures taken at Otay Mesa only occurred as a result of court intervention, which continues to be necessary in light of the urgency of the outbreak at that facility,” said Monika Langarica, immigrants’ rights staff attorney for the ACLU in San Diego and Imperial counties. “We are relieved for the nearly 100 people that have been released as a result of this litigation and we will continue fighting on behalf of everyone who continues in harm’s way at the Otay Mesa and the Imperial detention facilities.”
ICE has a policy of not commenting on pending and on-going litigation.