U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ruled in favor of a group of immigrant detainees who alleged that ICE forced them to endure “extraordinarily dangerous conditions” at Yuba County Jail and the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility, overseen by GEO Group Inc., a private prison contractor.
Judge Chhabria previously voiced his concerns with ICE’s “cavalier” attitude toward the safety of immigrants who’ve been detained, granting a temporary restraining order against the agency on Dec. 23 to “ensure these sorts of safety measures are actually implemented,” the judge wrote in the order.
The restraining order became Wednesday’s injunction, directing ICE to execute various safety measures that include providing masks, testing frequently, sanitizing prison cells and isolating detainees who test positive or show symptoms of COVID-19.
ICE disputed the court’s finding that the order from the judge was necessary and that the agency acted with deliberate indifference. However, it did not object to extending the restraining order as a preliminary injunction.
The detained migrants told the court that ICE failed to fulfill its obligations under Chhabria’s order in their status report Tuesday. Authorities at the jail did not notify the migrants’ counsel of positive test results in a timely fashion, were undercounting symptomatic people, not properly cleaning the facility, and counting detainees as recovered based on the passage of time instead of their actual health status, they said.
The legal team representing the detainees will renew efforts to secure the release of the 18 immigrant detainees remaining in Yuba County Jail through bail applications. The court’s injunction prohibits ICE from housing any more detainees at the facility until it can go without a positive case for more than two weeks.
The case is Zepeda Rivas et al. v. Jennings et al., case number 20-cv-02731, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.