At a Glance
The complaint and motion for temporary restraining order were filed in the Eastern District of Louisiana on April 1, 2020.
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Bill Quigley of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, Jeremy Jong in New Orleans, and R. Andrew Free in Nashville, Tennessee
Tatalu Helen Dada, Matilde Flores de Saavedra, Sirous Asgari, Suresh Kumar, Pardeep Kumar, Diego Carrillo Och, Rosabel Carrera, Edilia Del Carmen Martinez, Jose Ruben Lira Arias, Leyanis Tamayo Espinoza, Viankis Maria Yanes Pardillo, Arnaldo Alexis Mujica Rangle, Sonia Lemus Tejada Dejaso, Griselda del Bosque, Nadira Sampath Grant, Antonio Lopez Agustin, and Alex Hernandez
Dada v. ICE is a federal lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on behalf of 17 medically vulnerable people currently held in five different immigration detention centers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The lawsuit and an accompanying motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) seek the immediate release of these individuals, citing their severe risk of contracting coronavirus and developing life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms as well as ICE’s long and notorious history of failing to address serious overcrowding, unsafe and unsanitary facilities, and failure to provide adequate medical care and protection against outbreaks of infectious disease. The complaint and TRO seeking release warn that the near-certainty of coronavirus outbreaks in these facilities renders the continued detention of these individuals a potential death sentence for those detained for only a civil immigration violation.
Given the conditions in which people are confined in these immigration detention centers, it is impossible for ICE to comply with CDC guidelines around social distancing, quarantine, and treatment, and the facilities’ already inadequate medical facilities will inevitably be overwhelmed. The plaintiffs themselves report that the detention facilities have not provided those detained with any information about coronavirus, including guidelines for preventing it; that they are housed in open dorms with dozens sharing bunk beds only a few feet apart, with only a handful of toilets, showers, and phones; and that staff do not wear masks or gloves. Individuals who are detained do not even have adequate access to soap. In the days preceding the case filing, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Louisiana skyrocketed, and the rate of new infections there emerged as the highest in the nation.
The filing argues that when a state incarcerates someone, the Due Process Clause of the Constitution mandates the state provide those detained with a basic duty of care and health. Because these plaintiffs are in civil immigration detention, Due Process prohibits imposing conditions of confinement that amount to punishment and also prohibits ICE officials from being “deliberately indifferent” to known medical risks. The TRO likewise argues that release is the only possible remedy given the irremediably dangerous conditions and because access to counsel and to the bond system makes narrower possible relief such as bail impossible. The complaint also alleges that each of the 17 plaintiffs has a disability as defined under the federal Rehabilitation Act and is thus entitled to the only reasonable accommodation imaginable under the circumstances—release. In addition, the complaint highlights the myriad ways ICE is not—and cannot—follow its own guidelines on containment of communicable diseases, renders ICE in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
This filing is part of a national effort to release individuals from ICE detention and state and local prisons. Other countries are acting boldly—in the name of justice and public health—to free prisoners. For example, Iran released approximately 80,000 prisoners from their jails following the COVID-19 outbreak there. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into stark relief the inhumanity of the vast detention and incarceration system in the United States, which even under normal circumstances was cruel, dehumanizing, and overcrowded. While this litigation, for now, seeks emergency release only of these particularly vulnerable individuals, it is situated in broader calls for a positive vision of mass decarceration.