A New York federal judge ordered the immediate release of 10 detainees held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who have chronic medical conditions – three of whom are held in the Hudson County Correctional Facility.
By Corey McDonald/Hudson County View
The order, made by Judge Analisa Torres of the U.S. Southern District of New York last night, mandates that 10 ICE detainees at the Bergen, Hudson and Essex county jails be released immediately.
Three of the detainees, Vasif Basank, Manuel Benitez Pineda and Estanlig Mazariegos, are being held at the Hudson County Correctional Facility.
“Each petitioner suffers from chronic medical conditions, and faces an imminent risk of death or serious injury in immigration detention is exposed to COVID-19,” Torres wrote.
“The nature of detention facilities makes exposure and spread of the virus particularly harmful.”
“In the highly unusual circumstances posed by the COVID-19 crisis, the continued detention of aging or ill civil detainees does not serve the public’s interest,” she added.
Each of the jails where the detainees were being housed has reported confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The medical community at-large has been sounding the alarm that an outbreak of the coronavirus in a detention center would be catastrophic.
The petition for release was filed by the Bronx Defenders, who sought the clients release from ICE custody because of the public health crisis posed by the coronavirus, which has spread at a staggering rate.
“We will not stop fighting until every single person detained by ICE is freed and taken out of harm’s way,” the legal group said in a tweet.
The New York metropolitan area is now considered the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the county.
The order also prevents ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from arresting the individuals “for civil immigration detention purposes during the pendency of their immigration proceedings,” the order says.
The New Jersey Supreme Court on Sunday approved an agreement allowing the release of up to 1,000 people in county jails, which Gov. Phil Murphy (D) called “a prudent measure” necessary to “ensure public safety.”
There are still more than 250 ICE detainees who are still housed at the Hudson County facility.
Last week, more than 120 of them began a hunger strike to demand their release.
“We don’t know when someone will be infected, and it will spread very quickly when it’s here,” said Yimy Aldair Benitez Lopez, who has been in custody since November.
“We are scared because we have our families and friends outside and they could contract it and we wouldn’t be with them. This situation is very difficult with the pandemic here and across the world. We want to be with our families and friends during this time of panic and fear.”
Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_