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April 23, 2020

Population of Detainees Must be Decreased to Allow for Social Distancing During Pandemic

LOS ANGELES — United States District Court in Los Angeles today ordered the number of detainees at the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center be decreased “to such a level that would allow the remaining detainees to maintain a social distance of six feet from each other at all times and at all places, including while sleeping, eating, showering, and going about other daily activities.”

The ruling, handed down by Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr., came in response to a preliminary injunction request filed on April 14 by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP.

“Holding people in civil immigration detention in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic without taking basic steps to protect them from infection from this deadly virus from is, as the court found ‘inconsistent with contemporary standards of human decency,’” said ACLU SoCal Senior Attorney Jessica Bansal. “We are relieved that people detained at Adelanto will now receive the protections for their lives and health that every human being deserves.”

The judge ordered that ICE must reduce the population of the center in three ways:

  • Releasing selected detainees with or without conditions of release.
  • Deporting selected detainees who have final deportation orders and have exhausted all appeals.
  • Transferring selected detainees to other detention facilities where they can maintain social distancing.

The court actions filed by the ACLU SoCal had pointed out that medical experts had concluded that immigration detention centers such as Adelanto were potential COVID-19 tinderboxes.

Among the conditions at the Adelanto:

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

The judge ruled that the reductions in the center’s population must start by April 27th and be completed by May 4. The center currently holds about 1,300 detainees. The judge did not name a specific number the population must be reduced to.

Read the court order here: