On April 18, in response to a lawsuit filed by Human Rights First and Faegre Drinker, a federal judge in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ordered the release of five immigrants from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, citing the individuals’ vulnerability to COVID-19. Two additional plaintiffs were released April 10 after the lawsuit was filed. The court has not yet ruled on the petition for the three other plaintiffs named in the lawsuit.
Faegre Drinker’s pro bono team, led by partner Tracey Salmon-Smith and senior attorney Ingrid Johnson, includes associates Vijayasri Aryama, Emmanuel Brown, Kyle Kistinger, Brendan McHugh, Amanda Pasquini, and Antoinette Snodgrass, with paralegal Jenna Brahan.
The firm and Human Rights First filed the lawsuit in New Jersey on April 6, on behalf of ten plaintiffs detained at the Essex County Correctional Facility and the Elizabeth Detention Center. These individuals suffer from underlying medical conditions, including hypertension and chronic respiratory conditions, which place them at enhanced risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. At least two immigration detainees at the Essex County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19, as have seven immigration detainees, an employee of the medical unit and another ICE employee at the Elizabeth Detention Center. These facilities are located in areas that already have over 9,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection respectively.