RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A federal court last night upheld civil rights organizations’ motion to appoint a special master or independent third party to ensure the federal government complies with an injunction in the group’s class action lawsuit against immigration and customs control (EIS). The decision paves the way for systematic custody reviews and releases of those at higher risk for COVID-19 infections and serious illnesses. The order follows months of government violations and the continued incarceration of thousands of medically vulnerable people in ICE detention centers where COVID-19 continues to spread.
U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal issued the ruling almost a year after an injunction was issued instructing ICE to conduct custody reviews and releases for anyone at high risk. The court previously granted plaintiffs’ motion to enforce the injunction, stating that the agency’s custody decisions are an “unorganized patchwork of non-responses or superficial denials”.
“The Court is particularly concerned about apparent systematic errors in the identification of members of the subclass, delays and inconsistencies in redefinition of custody, and inadequate monitoring of compliance with the relevant guidelines,” Judge Bernal wrote in his ruling yesterday evening.
“The government’s ruthlessness has real life and death consequences,” he said Veronica Salama, Attorney at Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). “It is overdue for ICE to be held responsible for not treating immigrants with human dignity. We look forward to the appointment of the special master to finally carry out individualized custody checks and releases system-wide. “
Pilar Gonzalez Morales, Senior Attorney at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), said: “Plaintiffs were forced to go to court again as ICE disregarded previous court rulings in this case. We are extremely pleased that the court has agreed to appoint a third party to ensure that ICE identifies and releases those most vulnerable to COVID-19. We believe this decision could save the lives and health of many more people. “
“The defendants have repeatedly shown that they are unable or unwilling to ensure the safety and health of those in custody,” he said Melissa Riess, Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates (DRA). “We are particularly pleased that the court has recognized the importance of a special master in enforcing the rights of the ‘weakest’, especially those without legal representation.”
Fraihat’s lawsuit against ICE aims to end the inhuman and traumatic experience of ICE incarceration that affects tens of thousands across the country. The case was filed in August 2019 by the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the south and beyond, working with communities to break down white supremacy, empower intersectional movements, and promote human rights for all people. More information is available at www.splcenter.org.
Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) is a non-profit membership organization whose aim is to ensure that everyone can fully and independently participate in civil life in our country, without discrimination based on race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation or gender identity. https://creeclaw.org/.
Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), was founded in 1993 and is the leading national legal center for nonprofit disability rights. Its mission is to promote equality and opportunity for people with disabilities of all kinds across the country. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing class action cases. Thanks to DRA’s precedent work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster risk reduction planning, voting, housing and juvenile justice. https://www.dralegal.org.
Orrick has 27 offices worldwide and focuses on the global areas of technology, energy & infrastructure and finance. Customers worldwide turn to Orrick’s teams for forward-looking business advice on transactions, litigation and compliance issues. https://www.orrick.com/de/About-Us.
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is an international law firm with around 750 lawyers and offices in New York, Washington, Houston, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Brussels, Milan and Rome. The company is headquartered in New York City at 787 Seventh Avenue. Tel .: 212.728.8000. www.willkie.com