ACLU sues to release detainees at controversial detention center

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Otay Mesa Detention Center houses mostly migrants awaiting trial. The American Civil Liberties Union is demanding the release of detainees over 45 and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Border Report) — The American Civil Liberties Union has sued for the “drastic” reduction in population at the Otay Mesa and Imperial Detention Centers.

The lawsuit also seeks an emergency temporary restraining order calling for the immediate release from Otay Mesa of all people age 45 and over, and people with underlying medical conditions that place them at heightened risk of serious illness or death due to COVID-19.

Otay Mesa is the site of the largest outbreak of COVID-19 of any U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center nationwide, with 27 detainees and at least 18 staff confirmed positive.

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The lawsuit argues immediate court intervention is necessary to “mitigate the outbreak, save lives, and preserve public health.”

“ICE is knowingly jeopardizing the lives of people in its custody by refusing to take action to mitigate the outbreak of COVID-19 at Otay Mesa and prevent introduction of the virus at Imperial,” said Monika Langarica, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Attorney.

“ICE’s disregard for public health recommendations threatens community safety and risks collapsing surrounding healthcare systems.”

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So far, the Department of Homeland Security refused to release people whose lives might be in danger while in custody.

According to the lawsuit, the lead plaintiffs in the case include a Cuban couple, a 19-year old Guatemalan woman who has been separated from her younger brother for ten months, and a Honduran woman who has been separated from her husband for nearly four months. One plaintiff is diagnosed with HIV and another has severe asthma. All are threatened by conditions at the detention centers that make it impossible to take the steps necessary to protect their health and safety in custody.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a standing policy of not responding to matters involving pending litigation according to a department spokesperson.

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