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Prairieland detainees file class-action lawsuit against ICE related to coronavirus cases in facility

The lawsuit alleges officials did not follow proper protocol to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Credit: Begay Omuralieva

Ten individuals held at Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado filed a class-action lawsuit Friday against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Prairieland Detention Center.

The lawsuit alleges ICE transported a plane of more than 80 people from two jails in New York and Pennsylvania without taking necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Attorneys in the lawsuit met with an attorney for the government on Monday.

“The consequences of this decision are exactly as expected: Prairieland Detention Center quickly went from zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 to at least 45," the lawsuit states.

The purpose of the lawsuit is to release individuals at high risk for COVID-19, said Fatma Marouf, the director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Texas A&M School of Law. The lawsuit also claims that individuals who are under quarantine are unable to make confidential calls to their attorneys, since the calls are on a recorded line. 

Kanat Umarbaev is one of the detainees on the lawsuit. The 47-year-old was transferred from a detention center in Pennsylvania to Prairieland Detention Center on April 11. Begay Omuralieva, his wife, told WFAA her husband had not been ill prior to the transfer but has since tested positive for COVID-19 at least twice.

On April 20, ICE confirmed three COVID-19 cases at Prairieland Detention Center and on April 21, the number of positive cases rose to 28. As of May 15, there are 45 positive cases at the facility.

RELATED: ICE detention center went from 3 to 28 confirmed cases of coronavirus in a day

“People are not getting proper medical care,” Omuralieva said. "He said it feels like a concentration camp.”

Umarbaev, a father of two, moved to the United States from Kyrgyzstan in 2000 and filed for asylum. He was denied his asylum claim and an order of deportation was emitted.

The 47-year-old was detained in August 2019. According to Marouf, the family was able to get a stay of removal from the court of appeals until his case is processed.

Marouf adds many of the individuals represented in the lawsuit have lived in the country for years and would not pose a risk to the community.

Another detainee, Lee Espinoza, has lived in the United States since he was a year-and-a-half old and was a legal resident. But a judge revoked his residency after violating probation when he was 17 years old, according to his mother, Cristian Carcamo.

Espinoza, 40, tested positive for COVID-19 at Prairieland. 

“For a month he was in isolation at Prairieland due to COVID-19,” said Carcamo.

Carcamo told WFAA for three days she was unaware her son had been transferred to a detention center in Texas.

Maruof said a motion has been filed for a temporary restraining order to go before an immigration judge.

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