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Woman released from Conroe ICE facility because she’s ‘vulnerable to COVID-19’

“We are pleased to see the court’s understanding that a COVID-19 infection could be a death sentence for people in immigration detention,” an ACLU attorney said.
Credit: Shannon Harrison

CONROE, Texas — A woman who is “highly vulnerable to serious illness and death from novel coronavirus” was released from an ICE facility in Conroe Friday.

The unidentified woman was one of four plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Texas demanding the release of the most vulnerable detainees.

A United States District Court in Houston granted the request on Friday.

“Whether someone is released from detention can mean life or death during this pandemic,” said Kate Huddleston, attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “We are grateful that the court ordered ICE to release our client from immigration detention. As the court rightly explained, there is just no way for people like our client, who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, to be safe while detained by ICE. In light of the pandemic, ICE must release many more people.”

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Huddleston said the woman would be allowed to return home.

Two other plaintiffs were released on bond but a fourth remains in custody.

 “It is unconscionable that ICE would continue to hold people in civil detention when so many lives — inside detention centers and in the communities that surround them — are at risk,” said Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU's National Prison Project. “The agency must release many more people if it is to mitigate the looming public health and humanitarian disasters.”

in a separate lawsuit, a group of civil rights organizations is suing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release immigrants with health issues at three other Texas detention centers during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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The lawsuit alleges that the conditions inside the detention centers are a breeding ground for COVID-19. Immigrants housed there describe the lax measures to prevent the spread, including crowded housing, not enough soap or hand sanitizer, little medical care, and interacting with guards who aren’t wearing gloves or masks, according to the lawsuit.

At least 72 people in ICE custody and 19 detention staffers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to ICE.