Ninth Circuit Halts Release of Immigrant Detainees Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed a lower-court judge’s decision requiring a California Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) detention facility to release at least 250 detainees due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The facility in question is the Adelanto ICE Processing Facility, located northeast of Los Angeles. In recent weeks, the center has witnessed protests from its detainees. Up to 120 detainees participated in hunger strikes in order to voice their concerns about the facility’s lack of coronavirus-related medical treatments.

However, the data may paint a different reality. The facility currently has capacity for 1,940 individuals, but only houses 1,295 detainees—meaning that only about two-thirds of the center is filled. Of these 1,295 detainees, none has tested positive for the disease.

But this public data didn’t stop Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. from instructing Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to “immediately reduce the detainee population…to such a level that would allow the remaining detainees to maintain a social distance of 6 feet from each other at all times and at all places…”

The judge’s order came in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP. The two groups filed a class-action lawsuit demanding the release of detainees from the center as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

By the end of April, the judge wanted at least 250 detainees to be released from the facility. The circuit court ruled that this wouldn’t be happening, but wanted ICE to comply with “all mandates, best practices, recommendations, and guidelines” issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The decision is a significant win for the Trump administration, as the Ninth Circuit has frequently enjoined its immigration initiatives—ranging from the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)—to southwest border wall funding, injunctions that were eventually overturned.

The class-action lawsuit and the judge’s order reveal the continued efforts by the open borders lobby and activist judges to exploit the coronavirus crisis in order to fulfill their agenda.

Had the Ninth Circuit not overturned the lower-court judge’s order, aliens, including some with criminal records, would have been released recklessly into American communities. The wholesale release of migrants would have undermined our nation’s judicial system as migrants set for deportation have already had due process and a final order of removal. And those still waiting for their court date more often than not do not have valid asylum claims and are unlikely to show up to their hearing. The likely result is that most would disappear into the country. In the end, public safety would have become potentially compromised as many of the detainees have been convicted of more serious crimes than immigration offenses. 

Simply put, the court’s rejection of the open borders lobby’s efforts to exploit the current crisis is refreshing. Its decision affirmed that the interests of the American people must be protected.

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