October 13, 2020

Willkie and civil rights organizations are seeking COVID-19 protections for people in immigration detention centers; as COVID-19 cases continue to climb inside detention centers, Court finds ICE has fallen “far below” compliance with its previous injunction.

On October 7, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal of the Central District of California granted civil rights organizations’ motion to enforce a preliminary injunction in their class-action lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), ordering the agency to perform custody determinations to all individuals in all of their detention centers across the country with medical risk factors that increase their risk of serious COVID-19 complications in compliance with the Court’s April 20 injunction.

In his order, Judge Bernal found that ICE has fallen “far short” of complying with the April 20 order, adding that, “the Court is gravely concerned that Fraihat custody decisions are a disorganized patchwork of non-responses or perfunctory denials” and that, “more active monitoring of Defendants’ compliance is needed.” The Court went on to issue several clarifications to the April 20 injunction including ICE’s obligation to identify and track individuals with risk factors within five days of their detention and to make timely custody determinations, including individuals subject to mandatory detention.

The order also clarifies limits on transfers between facilities, a practice that has contributed to massive COVID-19 outbreaks inside detention centers, and bans solitary confinement as a quarantine measure, a punitive and inhumane practice that goes against public health recommendations.

The Fraihat v. ICE lawsuit was filed by the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in August of 2019, seeking an end to the inhumane and traumatic experience of ICE detention affecting tens of thousands across the country.

Partner Michael Johnson led the pro bono Willkie team, which also included associates Jessica Blanton, Joseph Bretschneider, Leigh Coutoumanos and Timothy Ryan.