San Antonio, TX– RAICES, Rapid Defense Network, and ALDEA – The People’s Justice Center filed a case, O.M.G. v. Wolf, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia today (3-21-2020) on an emergency basis seeking release of all families being held in the Family Residential Centers (FRC) due to the imminent risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.
These organizations represent immigrant families who have sought protection from persecution and torture and who are detained in ICE custody at the Berks family detention center, the Karnes family detention center, and the Dilley family detention center. The three FRCs are the only immigration family detention centers in the United States. Each FRC has failed to take adequate measures to protect detained families from COVID-19, and there is no justification for risking these families’ health and safety. Doing so also risks increasingly strained local healthcare systems , should these families contract COVID-19 while detained.
The concerns raised in the lawsuit are consistent with the March 19, 2020 Letter that Dr. Scott A. Allen and Dr. Josiah D. Rich sent to the House Committee on Homeland Security, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“Anyone can get a coronavirus infection. While healthy children appear to suffer mildly if they contract COVID-19, they still pose risk as carriers of infection, particularly so because they may not display symptoms of illness. Family detention continues to struggle with managing outbreaks of influenza and varicella. Notably, seven children who have died in and around immigration detention, according to press reports, six died of infectious disease, including three deaths from influenza. Containing the spread of an infection in a congregate facility housing families creates the conditions where many of those infected children who do not manifest symptoms will unavoidably spread the virus to older family members who may be at a higher risk of serious illness,” they explained.
“Social distancing is an oxymoron in congregate settings, which because of the concentration of people in a close area with limited options for creating distance between detainees, are at very high risk for an outbreak of infectious disease. This then creates an enormous public health risk, not only because disease can spread so quickly, but because those who contract COVID-19 with symptoms that require medical intervention will need to be treated at local hospitals, thus increasing the risk of infection to the public at large and overwhelming treatment facilities.”
We will continue to advocate for the same relief that is requested in the Drs. Letter and in the case we filed today: the immediate release of our clients to their families in the United States in a manner consistent with maximizing public safety.
The filing itself, O.M.G. v. WOLF [PDF, 25MB]