Posted on May 1, 2020

Miami Federal Judge Orders ICE to Release 1,200 Non-Violent Undocumented Immigrants From Three South Florida Centers Amid Coronavirus Fears

Adry Torres, Daily Mail, May 1, 2020

A Miami federal court judge has ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release more than 1,200 undocumented immigrants detained in three South Florida detention centers.

As part of U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke’s ruling, any person who has a non-violent criminal offense or underlying medical history will be eligible to be release under certain guidelines.

Detainees could be subjected to wearing electronic ankle bracelets, physical or phone check-ins and parole.

Prisoners at Krome Processing Center in Miami-Dade County, the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven and the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach have continuously complained about their fears of contracting the coronavirus and the lack of preventive measures from ICE to contain the outbreak at the facilities.

‘There is recorded evidence demonstrating that ICE has failed in its duty to protect the safety and general well-being of the petitioners,’ Cooke wrote in her 12-page court ruling. ‘Social distancing at Krome is not only practically impossible, the conditions are becoming worse every day.’

Cooke slammed the federal immigration agency for not providing detainees ‘masks, soaps and other cleaning supplies’ and for failing to promote social distancing at the three jails.

Under Cooke’s ruling, ICE was given three days to demonstrate an outlined proposal to decrease its prison population by hundreds.

‘Accordingly, there is sufficient evidence in this record to determine that the present conditions at the three detention centers constitute a violation of the Petitioners’ Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights.’

The Miami Herald reported as many as 100 Krome detainees who have been exposed to COVID-19 were segregated together and placed in dorms without masks and sanitizers. Personal protective equipment was reportedly only provided to Krome workers.

It sparked a federal lawsuit in April.

Mexican national Miguel Torres, 38, is one of 600 prisoners at the center and said he and other inmates looked to other options to protect themselves from possibly being infected.

‘Some of us start praying and others just hide under the covers,’ he said. ‘We don’t have masks, so our blankets and God are all the hope we have.’

Torres revealed the detainees have taken up on the role of caretakers for their other fellow inmates, including 78-year-old Ramón Gomez, who are too sick to look after themselves.

Gomez, a native of Nicaragua and a married father-of-four, is serving time for several criminal offenses, moves around in a wheelchair and can barely walk, causing him difficulties to make it to the bathroom on time.

‘He’s just weak so he soils himself,’ Torres added.

Nelson Varela, a former Venezuelan detainee, tested positive for the deadly coronavirus three days after he was released from Krome on April 20.

Varela, who wife and two children tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, said he started feeling flu-like symptoms after he was forced to join at least 60 other men who were placed in lockdown because they had been exposed to an inmate who tested positive for the pandemic.

Several dozen family members, health care workers and activists gathered outside Krome on Friday morning in support of the detainees.

‘It’s horrible to see what happening there,’ Maria Bilbao, a community activist with United We Dream, told on Friday. ‘It’s people who have been detained for more than a year, year and a half.’

Cooke’s decision comes a week after Miami U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman ruled that although he could not approve the release of almost 1,400 undocumented immigrants from the three facilities, ICE should be required to draft a plan speed up their court-supervised release.

Two guards at an immigration detention center in Louisiana have died after contracting the coronavirus in the last six days, raising new questions about whether the U.S. government is adequately protecting 30,000 immigrants in custody and the staff guarding them.

Relatives of both Carl Lenard, 62, and Stanton Johnson, 51, said the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, Louisiana, had at one point prevented them from wearing masks as the virus spread through the facility.

Lenard died early Saturday, according to his family. He tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, though his cause of death is still undetermined. His widow, Margarette Lenard, said she now has COVID-19 as well and several relatives have symptoms of the virus.

Johnson died Tuesday, according to his mother, Joyce Johnson, who also said that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

ICE has tested just 705 detainees, according to its publicly released figures. The agency recently said it would receive 2,000 tests a month from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ramp up testing of detainees.

According to ICE figures, 449 detainees and 36 guards have contracted COVID-19. Four guards have died of the virus.