PDF Version

IN RACE TO AVERT CATASTROPHE, ADVOCATES DEMAND IMMIGRANTS BE FREED FROM NOTORIOUS GEORGIA DETENTION CENTERS

ICE “walking willingly into a preventable disaster” as two of nation’s largest detention centers reach boiling point


Atlanta, GA, April 30, 2020 — The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta (AAAJ) today filed a motion for preliminary injunction in their lawsuit seeking the immediate release of medically susceptible individuals in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA and Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, GA.

The motion demands the petitioners be freed, emphasizing that ICE cannot or will not comply with CDC guidance and is unable to protect them from the imminent dangers of COVID-19.

“At Stewart, social distancing is impossible, so I am unable to maintain a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as recommended by the CDC,” said a medically susceptible 31-year-old petitioner. The man, who came to the U.S. with his family when he was eight years old, has hypertension and is in a wheelchair due to complications from a back surgery in 2019.

“To this day, ICE has not done any individualized medical evaluation for me to determine whether any special measures are needed to treat my back and other conditions or to reduce my risk of exposure to coronavirus given the condition of my heart and lungs,” continued the man. “I am scared they are going to let me die right here.”

“It’s unconscionable to continue to trap people in these detention camps as the virus spreads inside,” said Gracie Willis, a staff attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “As ICE fails to heed the advice of doctors and public health officials for even the most basic protective measures, the agency is already seeing a spike in the number of cases at their detention centers,” continued Willis. “The agency will soon bear responsibility for the large number of people in its care facing unnecessary illness and loss of life. Their window to avoid such devastation is quickly closing.”

"ICE claims it can protect people in its custody, but countless detained people report not receiving necessary medical care, not being fed, not being provided enough soap, cleaning supplies, or PPE, and being housed with large groups of other people," said Hillary Li, a staff attorney at Advancing Justice-Atlanta. "COVID-19 is at both Stewart and Irwin and will only continue to spread,” continued Li. “Not only is ICE failing to react, but they are also actively putting already medically vulnerable people in grave danger."

The motion was filed amid an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases inside ICE prisons. Of the mere 3 percent of detained persons tested by ICE, nearly 50 percent have tested positive as of April 30. ICE’s totals do not include staff of private prison corporations, like CoreCivic, which has reported over 40 cases among its staff at Stewart alone.

Doctors and public health experts warn that unless ICE promptly empties its prisons, catastrophic outbreaks of COVID-19 in and around detention centers are inevitable.

“ICE’s response has made abundantly clear that they do not plan to establish special protections for high-risk patients, instead waiting for them to become infected, symptomatic, and in danger,” said Dr. Robert B. Greifinger in a declaration filed in the case. “The lack of special protections will lead to unnecessary illness and death for the people most vulnerable to this disease,” continued Greifinger. “ICE is walking willingly into a preventable disaster by keeping high-risk and vulnerable patients in detention facilities during the rapid spread of COVID19.”

If not granted release, petitioners ask ICE to immediately perform custody redeterminations and provide them the opportunity to submit medical records relevant to their risk of severe COVID-19 complications. A federal judge in California recently ruled that ICE must make new custody determinations for every detained individual at heightened risk for COVID-19.

The motion further requests a cease in transfers until the facilities are in full compliance with the CDC’s COVID-19 guidance, adequate medical care and adequate PPE. And in response to a dramatic decrease in the amount of food served at Stewart in recent weeks, petitioners seek three appropriately nutritious meals per day at consistent times and regular access to the commissary.

The habeas petition was filed on April 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. The Court denied an earlier motion for temporary restraining order, but petitioners have since filed an amended complaint.

The motion for preliminary injunction can be viewed here and the memorandum of law in support of the motion for preliminary injunction can be found here. Other filings and background on the case can be found here.

September 18, 2020: VOTING RIGHTS ADVOCATES LAUNCH DEAR GEORGIA, IT'S TIME CAMPAIGN

August 6, 2020: Georgia Advocates Condemn the Trump Administration’s Latest Attempt to Disrupt the Outcome of the 2020 Census

June 18, 2020: Supreme Court Stands on Right Side of History to Uphold DACA

June 11, 2020: Georgia Must Protect Democracy and Reform Elections

May 14, 2020: Justice Department Must Investigate Ahmaud Arbery’s Murder

May 13, 2020: Local Organizations are teaming up to help underserved limited English proficient communities during the COVID-19 pandemic

April 30, 2020: IN RACE TO AVERT CATASTROPHE, ADVOCATES DEMAND IMMIGRANTS BE FREED FROM NOTORIOUS GEORGIA DETENTION CENTERS

April 23, 2020: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Condemns New Immigration Ban

April 21, 2020: As Covid-19 worsens, family unity must play a central role in our immigration system

April 21, 2020: Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta opposes Governor Kemp's decision to reopen nonessential businesses

April 13, 2020: Voting Rights Advocates File Emergency Suit Seeking to Provide Access to Bilingual Absentee Ballot Applications in Georgia

April 10, 2020: Advocates: Catastrophe Awaits Unless Action is Taken to Protect People Held at South Georgia Immigrant Detention Facilities Amid Pandemic

April 3, 2020: Immigrant Advocates Seek Immediate Release of People at Heightened Risk of COVID-19 from Notorious Georgia Detention Centers

February 24, 2020: ASIAN AMERICANS ADVANCING JUSTICE ISSUES STATEMENT ON DETAILS OF NEW PUBLIC CHARGE RULE WHICH GOES INTO EFFECT TODAY

February 20, 2020: Advancing Justice-Atlanta to host Annual Asian American Advocacy Day with communities, organizations, and legislators

January 31, 2020: Coalition of Immigrant Rights Groups Oppose Trump Administration’s Decision To Expand Ban Targeting African and Asian Nations

January 14, 2020: Asian American Organizations Denounce Deportations of over 30 Cambodian Americans at Beginning of 2020