The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on federal immigration authorities to release detainees on parole or bond from facilities in California who are vulnerable to becoming ill from COVID-19, such as those who are elderly or suffer from medical conditions.
The move, coupled with a slowdown in new arrests and lockups, would reduce the impact of a potentially deadly outbreak at crowded detention centers with a history of substandard medical care, said lawyers at the nonprofit.
“People have died at these detention centers,” said Eva Bitrán, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. “We hope that in a time of pandemic, ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] takes precautions on the front end to make sure people are out of their custody and able to get medical care.”
In letters Wednesday, Bitrán and Human Rights Watch also urged ICE officials to beef up efforts to prevent transmission and care for any detainees who fall ill at the state’s largest detention center in Adelanto in San Bernardino County, and another one in Bakersfield. Failing to do so “may cost lives,” said the missives.