New Jersey jails must release at least 10 ‘at risk’ ICE detainees over coronavirus concerns: judge


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At least 10 migrants deemed “at risk” were ordered freed from jails in three New Jersey counties Thursday night over coronavirus concerns.

The jails – in Hudson, Bergen and Essex counties – had each reported cases of coronavirus, either among detainees, staff members or both, ABC News reported.

U.S. Judge Analisa Torres in New York ruled that the group of detainees, which included both men and women, had requested release “because of the public health crisis posed by COVID-19,” their petition said, according to ABC.


The detainees were not identified and were being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for unspecified reasons. The migrant group was believed to be the largest in the nation to be ordered freed over concerns about the virus, Politico reported.

The three New Jersey counties lie just across the Hudson River from New York, which has the most coronavirus cases in the nation. New Jersey ranks No. 2 on the list.

“Each Petitioner suffers from chronic medical conditions, and faces an imminent risk of death or serious injury in immigration detention if exposed to COVID-19,” the judge’s decision said, according to the station.

Torres also addressed the conditions at the jails in her decision.

“The nature of detention facilities makes exposure and spread of the virus particularly harmful,” Torres wrote.

Nationwide, the U.S. holds about 37,000 people in detention over immigration issues, according to The Associated Press.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif. (Associated Press)

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif. (Associated Press)

Many of the detainees are elderly or have pre-existing medical conditions, making them vulnerable to coronavirus, and are held in conditions in which beds are just three feet apart with lack of access to protective gear such as face masks.


The Hudson County jail reported two detainees and one correctional officer with the virus, while the Bergen County jail reported one detainee had been infected and the Essex County jail reported a superior officer had been diagnosed with the illness, ABC reported.

At least two other federal courts — in Boston and San Francisco — have ordered individual migrants to be freed from detentionin recent days over coronavirus concerns, Politico reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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