Detained person with wrists tied

ICE Detainees Win Class Status For Covid-19 Confinement Suit

By Porter Wells, Bloomberg Law

Immigration detainees at three facilities in Miami who say ICE has been unconstitutionally indifferent to their risks of contracting Covid-19 may pursue their claims as a class, the Southern District of Florida ruled.

The certified class, calculated to be about 1,400 individuals, will be comprised of all civil immigration detainees held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Krome, BTC, and Glades “when this action was filed, since this action was filed, or in the future,” Judge Marcia G. Cooke said for court June 6. The omnibus opinion disposed of a number of overlapping motions.

Many of the 58 named plaintiffs say they have preexisting health conditions like diabetes, HIV-AIDS, and heart disease that puts them at higher risk of falling ill during the coronavirus pandemic. ICE is accused of violating the detainee’s rights to reasonable safety and detention standards without due process of law by maintaining a high population density, keeping bunks and chairs too closely together, and by failing to address sanitation concerns.

ICE was also ordered by way of preliminary injunction to provide the detainees “unrestricted” access to hand soap, hand sanitizer, and disposable towels while the lawsuit progresses. The agency must also supply staff with face masks, distribute more cleaning products, and post information about the coronavirus in common areas. The court also said it expects weekly reports on released detainees, transferred detainees, and the status of the remaining population.

ICE argued in May that detainees who have been moved to new detention facilities outside of the court’s jurisdiction no longer have standing to complain about their confinement at the Miami-based facilities.

The court disagreed in its Saturday order, stating that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida “shall retain jurisdiction over all class members who are transferred to other facilities regardless of where those facilities are located.”

King & Spalding LLP is class counsel. Prada Urizar PLLC, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the University of Miami School of Law Immigration Clinic, Americans for Immigrant Justice, and the Rapid Defense Network also represent the plaintiffs.

The case is Gayle v. Meade, S.D. Fla., No. 20-cv-21553, 6/5/20