The ACLU estimates there are approximately 130 immigrants being held at the jail for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the ACLU, it’s the largest number of ICE detainees at a facility in Michigan.
The lawsuit argues the detainees are at high risk for serious illness or death in the event of COVID-19 infection. The suit claims the communal living environment at the jail is not conducive to “social distancing.”
“Many people who are detained at Calhoun County Jail have been in the U.S. for years. Some came to escape the violence of their homeland and for a better life,” says Jeannie Rhee, lead counsel for the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. “ICE must act now and release medically vulnerable people from detention so that their hope of living, working and being with their families in the U.S. does not become a death sentence.”
The suit also wants the court to determine how many people can be held in the jail, consistent with social distancing requirements, and order releases unless ICE reduces the jail population to that level.
In the past, ICE has made decisions on release on a case-by-case basis. The agency says the decisions are based on immigration history, criminal records, ties to the community and other factors.
Correctional facilities in Michigan have been hotbeds for coronavirus infections, with hundreds of inmates testing positive and several dozen deaths.