ACLU Files Class Action Lawsuit on Behalf of Medically Vulnerable People in Immigration Detention Nationwide

Class Action Lawsuit demands booster shots for people detained by ICE at high risk 

March 1, 2022 9:45 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of the District of Columbia today filed a lawsuit on behalf of medically vulnerable people detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who have requested and been denied COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. The lawsuit demands that the plaintiffs, who are medically vulnerable to severe illness and death in the event of infection, as well as all medically vulnerable people in ICE detention, be offered booster shots. This is the second lawsuit the ACLU has filed to obtain booster shots for people held in immigration detention.

“COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly throughout ICE detention centers, threatening the lives of people detained nationwide,” said Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “ICE officials have known for months that they must provide booster shots to people in detention, but have failed to do so. ICE’s callous failure to provide this necessary protection is cruel and unconstitutional.”

Since March 2020, COVID-19 has posed an unprecedented threat to the people locked in ICE detention facilities, where they are routinely denied access to timely and adequate medical care and forced to live in crowded housing units. More than one out of every 20 people in ICE detention are currently infected with COVID-19 today, and there are likely even more COVID-19 positive detainees due to insufficient testing.

Over four months between November 2021 and Feb. 21, 2022, ICE has provided only a total of 1,436 boosters to people detained in ICE detention facilities, despite holding between 18,800 to 22,000 people on average daily. ICE does not have policies or procedures to ensure that eligible people held in its over 200 detention facilities are identified and provided a booster shot.

“It’s shameful that yet again, the ACLU has to sue ICE to provide basic care for people in detention,” said Arthur B. Spitzer, senior counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia. “Booster shots are a necessity for people in crowded housing conditions and are readily available. There’s no excuse for ICE’s failure to provide them.”

Plaintiffs Miguel Angel Escalante, Kenet Jefet Hernandez Herrera, Anna Sorokin, and Ramon Dominguez Gonzalez suffer from a range of medical conditions that make them vulnerable to severe complications from COVID-19, including HIV, chronic kidney infections, obesity, and PTSD. They bring the lawsuit on behalf of all medically vulnerable people and people ages 55 or older detained by ICE nationwide.

The lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Attorneys litigating the case include Eunice Cho and Aditi Shah of the ACLU National Prison Project; Michael Tan and My Khanh Ngo of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; and Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU of the District of Columbia.

The complaint is online here:

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