On March 25, 2020, the ACLU National Prison Project, ACLU Immigrants Rights Project, ACLU of Massachusetts, and the law firms of Demissie & Church and Graves & Doyle filed Rodas-Mazariegos et al v. Moniz et al in the District of Massachusetts, on behalf of immigrants detained at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The filing followed news that a federal judge ordered the release of a detained class member in the ACLU’s Calderon v. Wolf suit in Plymouth County, citing the “extraordinary circumstances” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit seeks the release of people in civil detention who are at high risk for severe illness or death in the event of a COVID-19 infection due to underlining medical conditions or age. The only way to protect against COVID-19 is “physical distancing” and hygiene, both of which are impossible as detainees are housed in close quarters and rely on shared spaces. Because of this, public health experts with experience in detention settings have recommend the release of vulnerable detainees. The release of the most vulnerable people in custody will also lessen the likelihood of a large 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 petitioners on the ground that their continued detention violates the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.