Federal Judge Orders ICE to Test Detainees for COVID-19

August 24, 2021

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TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement must test detainees for COVID-19 before they are transferred to the immigrant detention center in Tacoma, a federal judge ordered Monday.

The ruling by Judge James Robart grants, in part, a temporary restraining order requested by lawyers representing vulnerable detainees in a class-action suit, the Seattle Times reported.

ICE must also take "all reasonable" measures to prevent cross-exposure at the Northwest ICE Processing Center to ensure that detained people testing negative are not exposed to those who test positive.

"It's a really big deal because it provides a key safety mechanism that's been lacking so far," said Aaron Korthuis, a staff attorney at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which represented plaintiffs in the suit alongside ACLU.

The number of COVID-19 cases at the facility has climbed to more than 240 since June.

ICE has flown over 1,000 detainees to Washington state since April. Some appeared to have contracted COVID-19 during the transfer, said Eunice Cho, an attorney with ACLU's National Prison Project.

"ICE's indifference to the health and safety of people in detention is unconscionable. We are grateful for the court's order, but it's mind-boggling that it took court action to make ICE take even the most basic measures," Cho said in a statement Monday.