A federal judge ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release detainees from three South Florida detention centers, saying it is a “cruel and unusual punishment” and a violation of the detainees’ rights to be kept in facilities that don’t practice social distancing and don’t provide them with masks or cleaning supplies.
Immigration rights groups had filed a lawsuit on behalf of 34 detainees seeking release during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the court order, ICE has seven days to determine who can be released given their health and immigration status, along with their criminal history.
The facilities concerned are the Krome Detention Center in Miami, the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, and the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven.
According to the order, these are civil detainees, not criminals.
There is record evidence demonstrating that ICE has failed in its duty to protect the safety and general well-being of the Petitioners,” US District Judge Marcia Cooke wrote in the order.
She added that social distancing at Krome “is not only practically impossible, the conditions are becoming worse every day” and at Glades the bunk beds are 12 inches apart.
The judge found that ICE had violated the guidelines set out by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“ICE has failed to provide detainees in some detention centers with masks, soap and other cleaning supplies” which places them “at a heightened risk of not only contracting Covid-19, but also succumbing to the fatal effects of the virus as some of the Petitioners have serious underlying medical illness,” Cooke wrote in the order.
The judge ordered ICE to immediately comply with the CDC’s and their own internal guidelines on providing adequate soap and water and cleaning materials to detainees.
ICE will also have to provide a report to the court within three days outlining how it will reduce the population of detainees to 75% of capacity at each of the detention centers within two weeks. ICE is also ordered to file weekly reports providing information about the number of detainees released and their health.
CNN has reached out to ICE and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dexter Lee who is representing ICE in the case, according to the court docket.
ICE had argued in the case that the court did not have jurisdiction over the everyday management of the detention facilities.