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April 14, 2020

Lawsuit Calls for a Drastic Reduction in Population of the Crowded Center

RIVERSIDE — Today, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP have filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court to demand a drastic reduction in the number of detainees at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical authorities have emphatically stated that maintaining a social distance of six feet is crucial to preventing the spread of COVID-19. But conditions at Adelanto, used by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to imprison about 1,300 people, make that impossible.

The government’s own medical experts have concluded that immigration detention centers such as Adelanto are potential COVID-19 tinderboxes.

Among the conditions at the center:

  • Bunk beds are placed only 2½ to 3 feet apart.
  • Cells as small as 8x10 feet are populated by four to eight people.
  • Detainees share sinks, toilets, counters, and showers, with no disinfectant cleaner available for after use.
  • Showers are placed less than six feet apart.
  • Food preparation and service are communal, with six to ten people eating at the same table.

Putting people imprisoned at Adelanto at such heightened possible exposure to the virus is not only inhumane, it also violates the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“ICE’s failure to take action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at Adelanto puts immigrants detained there at grave risk of death or serious injury,” said Jessica Karp Bansal, senior staff attorney at the ACLU SoCal. “It also threatens the surrounding communities, which are simply not equipped to handle a mass outbreak of COVID-19 at Adelanto.”

The lawsuit and accompanying request for a preliminary injunction maintain that because ICE has refused to make urgent, necessary changes to its operations during the pandemic, courts must intervene.

The court filing proposes a system for reducing the center population through releases that could be processed efficiently. Patterned after a system now in use in Massachusetts, it suggests that detainees submit simple two-page forms containing: biographical information, an address where the detainee can shelter-in-place, medical conditions, and criminal history.

Read the lawsuit here: