Carter-Appointed Judge Tells ICE to Release Detainees Due to Coronavirus

U.S. district judge in Los Angeles—who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter—ruled Thursday that an unspecified number of detainees must be released at an ICE facility in the state due to the coronavirus outbreak.


Judge Terry Hatter said the facility in Adelanto, Calif., must provide detainees with enough room to safely practice social distancing and that would require a dramatic drop in population. He expects the agency to release the detainees in intervals.

Hatter, earlier this month, was criticized after he ordered the release of four detainees who have been convicted of felony crimes, according to the Daily Caller. They included one 54-year-old who was convicted of “lewd or lascivious acts with a minor” and a drug trafficker.

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Newsweek reported that Hatter’s recent order requires that at least 100 should be released by April 27, another 150 should be released by the end of the month. The report said there are about 1,300 men and women at the processing center, which is one of the largest in the country.

ICE officials said these detainees are provided with soap and other cleaning supplies and took steps to increase social distancing, including adjusting meals and recreation times. The lawsuit was filed earlier this month by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and the law firm Latham & Watkins.

The ruling will likely be seen by some as another example of judicial overreach.

The Los Angeles Times reported that, in the ruling, Hatter ordered staff at the facility to maintain a six-foot separation from detainees and they must wear protective garb.  The report said that if federal officials “fail to comply with any of the above, the Court will consider the immediate release of class members.”

The paper called the ruling the first of its kind in California and pointed to a similar ruling that was made earlier this week in Miami.

There are about 32,000 detainees who are currently being held in ICE custody on civil charges, and there have been new calls to ensure their safety after the outbreak of the virus. The New York Times reported that as of Wednesday night, there have been 287 confirmed cases.

“This is a real recipe for a humanitarian disaster,” Anthony Enriquez, the director of the unaccompanied minors program at Catholic Charities, told the paper.

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