BUFFALO, New York — Two prisoner advocacy groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in Buffalo, New York, against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials seeking protection for prisoners from COVID-19 housed in the New York Detention lockup. Specifically, the advocacy groups have asked to be certified as a class so they could represent every person currently held in custody in the ICE detention facility located in Buffalo, New York. The plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that jailors have not done enough to enforce social distancing measures to protect inmates from the spread of COVID-19, according to NBC 4 New York. The prisoners asked the court to order the ICE authorities to follow CDC social distancing guidelines.
The New York Detention Facility in Buffalo currently houses 319 ICE detainees. According to the lawsuit filed recently, the plaintiffs argue that 49 of the detainees tested positive for COVID-19 in late April. In three short weeks, the plaintiffs claim, the infection rate increased 1,200 percent. The infection rate ranks the facility as one of the hardest hit if not the hardest hit ICE detention center in the U.S.
The allegations contained in the complaint further state that the administration of the detention facility refused to implement appropriate safety precautions for more than twelve detainees identified as susceptible to the coronavirus. In the present lawsuit, the prisoner advocacy groups alleged that more than 100 of the detainees in the facility were left unprotected from the potential spread of the novel coronavirus in though the detention facility. The lawsuit refers to the inmates as medically vulnerable. Still, it does not specify from which underlying conditions the plaintiffs suffer that render them vulnerable to the virus.
The lawsuit asks the judge hearing the case to order the ICE detention facility to implement a complete COVID-19 policy instead of the current policy, which is not only unlawful but dangerous, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
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