On March 16, 2020, the ACLU National Prison Project, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project filed Dawson v. Asher in the Western District of Washington, on behalf of immigrants detained at the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington.
The lawsuit seeks the release of detainees who, because of age or preexisting medical condition, are at especially high risk for serious illness or death in the event of a COVID-19 infection. Because there is no vaccine, cure, or treatment for COVID-19, the only known way to protect against serious illness or death caused by COVID-19 is social distancing or hygiene, both of which are virtually impossible in a detention setting. For those reasons, correctional public health experts recommend the release of those vulnerable of suffering the most acutely from COVID-19. The release of the most vulnerable people in custody will also lessen the likelihood of an overwhelming number of people becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 at the same time and overwhelming the healthcare system.
The ACLU is calling for the immediate release of the plaintiffs on the ground that their continued detention violates the Due Process Clause.