A federal judge has ordered the release five U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees from two jails, including the Hudson County Correctional Facility.
U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo described the Bergen and Hudson County jails as “the epicenter of the [corona]virus in New Jersey” in her decision made on Easter Sunday.
The ACLU, the Legal Aid Society, and the Bronx Defenders, represented the petitions in this matter.
“We are thankful for the court’s clear message: that COVID-19 poses an unacceptable danger to people in immigration detention,” ACLU National Prison Project Senior Staff Attorney Eunice Cho said in a statement.
“In the midst of this pandemic, ICE has recklessly endangered the lives of these five plaintiffs and so many others. Civil immigration detention should not carry with it the risk of a death sentence,” added Immigration Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society Staff Attorney Aadhithi Padmanabhan.
Similar to a New York federal judge’s ruling last month, Arleo felt releasing the five detainees in question was necessary due to pre-existing medical conditions.
One Hudson detainee, identified as Christian A.R., is 33 years old and suffers from hypertension and Type 2 diabetes. The other, Alvaro N.M., 59, has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, according to the court filing.
The order indicates that as of one week ago, 84 people either in custody or employed by the jail has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Hudson County Jail Director Ron Edwards.
“According to Director Ron Edwards, as of 5:00 p.m. on April 6, 2020, two ICE detainees, twenty-four county and federal inmates, and fifty-eight staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.”
Last week, HCV first reported that four jail employees had died, 26 in custody had tested positive, and 87 corrections officers were self-quarantined due to possible coronavirus contamination.
A county spokesman said at the time that 22 inmates had recovered after self-isolation and that the other four in custody, ICE detainees, had been released.
Ultimately, Arleo decided that the five petitioners should be released from their respective facilities given that their medical needs cannot be properly met at this time.
“Finally, while the Court is sympathetic to the increased burden on medical staff to attend to each detainee’s medical needs, inadequate care aggravates the already heightened risk COVID-19 poses to vulnerable detainees,” she wrote.
” … Petitioners in this matter are vulnerable to severe complications and death if they contract COVID-19 and are incarcerated in facilities at the epicenter of the outbreak where they cannot practically adhere to social distancing guidelines or the adequate level of personal hygiene to stop the spread of the virus.”
On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order placing low-risk individuals at state prisons on temporary home confinement or on parole as a another preventative measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information.