MIAMI — A U.S. District Court judge announced an order late Thursday, April 30, in the lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and several partners that affects U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inmates in South Florida, including some held at the Glades County jail.
Southern District of Florida Judge Marcia G. Cooke’s order directs ICE to begin the process of releasing hundreds of people from three South Florida detention centers, according to an SPLC news release.
The order in the lawsuit, which was first filed on April 13, directs ICE to submit a report to the court explaining how it intends to accelerate its review of its Alternatives to Detention Program, with the goal of reducing the population to 75 percent of capacity at each of the three detention centers within two weeks, the SPLC release stated. That action had been strongly recommended to be required of ICE roughly a week previously, due to conditions at the detention centers and how they have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in a report to Judge Cooke by federal Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman.
Judge Cooke also ordered ICE to perform custody redeterminations for the 34 named individuals in the suit within one week and provide masks for every individual in the three facilities within two days. Judge Cooke found that there is sufficient evidence to determine that the conditions at the detention centers constitute a violation of detained individuals’ Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights.
She also wrote in her 12-page order that ICE has acted in “deliberate indifference” to the conditions detainees have been being held under at the Krome Processing Center, Broward Transitional Center and Glades County Detention Center.
Reporting by The Miami Herald has detailed “ICE’s practice of segregating together as many as a hundred detainees who have been exposed to COVID-19 and isolating them in large dormitories with no masks, no sanitizer and no possibility of social distancing,” that newspaper reported April 30.“There is record evidence demonstrating that ICE has failed in its duty to protect the safety and general well-being of the petitioners,” Judge Cooke wrote. “Social distancing at Krome is not only practically impossible, the conditions are becoming worse every day. Further, ICE has failed to provide detainees in some detention centers with masks, soap and other cleaning supplies, and failed to ensure that all detainees housed at the three detention centers can practice social distancing.”
The following statement is from Paul R. Chavez, senior supervising attorney with SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project: “This victory is a promising step in the right direction to end the cruel and unusual punishment of nearly 1,400 individuals detained in South Florida. We are pleased to see the court move to hold ICE accountable for its barbaric and inhumane treatment of our immigrant friends, family members and neighbors. The pandemic has only exacerbated the life-and-death stakes of ICE detention.
“We look forward to holding ICE accountable to this order and will be filing for class action certification soon. The urgency of the situation cannot be understated. By ignoring the advice of doctors and public health experts, the agency is knowingly putting detained people’s lives in grave danger. It’s impossible to practice social distancing and other CDC guidelines in detention centers, even if they are not at capacity.
“We must release detained people back into the safety of their communities where they can protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus. Unless we correct course and free them now, Florida and ICE will bear responsibility for unfathomable harm and loss of life.”
(Phone calls to the GCDC and ICE office in Moore Haven were not returned before deadline for this story, but it will be updated online as there are new developments.