Federal Judge Rejects ICE’s ‘Weak’ Implementation of Court-Ordered Custody Determinations of High Risk Individuals and Other Safety Measures

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb inside detention centers, Court finds ICE has fallen “far below” compliance with its previous injunction.


RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Last night in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal granted civil rights organizations’ motion to enforce a preliminary injunction in their class-action lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), ordering the agency to perform custody determinations to all individuals in all of their detention centers across the country with medical risk factors that increase their risk of serious COVID-19 complications in compliance with the Court’s April 20 injunction.

In his order, Judge Bernal found that ICE has fallen “far short” of complying with the April 20 order, adding that, “the Court is gravely concerned that Fraihat custody decisions are a disorganized patchwork of non-responses or perfunctory denials” and that, “more active monitoring of Defendants’ compliance is needed.” The Court went on to issue several clarifications to the April 20 injunction including ICE’s obligation to identify and track individuals with risk factors within five days of their detention and to make timely custody determinations, including individuals subject to mandatory detention.

The order also clarifies limits on transfers between facilities, a practice that has contributed to massive COVID-19 outbreaks inside detention centers, and bans solitary confinement as a quarantine measure, a punitive and inhumane practice that goes against public health recommendations.

“This order shows that ICE has essentially ignored the court for nearly six months,” said Pilar Gonzalez Morales, a senior attorney at Disability Law United. “ICE’s actions are not just a blatant disregard for the Court but have needlessly endangered the lives of thousands of immigrants in its custody. We are pleased that the Court has clarified the need for widespread and regular testing, halted unnecessary transfers, and prohibited ICE from using harmful isolation practices.”

“ICE has continued to exhibit callous disregard for the health and safety of people within its custody since the preliminary injunction order was issued nearly six months ago, even as the pandemic accelerates and outbreaks crop up in facilities across the country,” said Rosa Lee Bichell, a Justice Catalyst Fellowship Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates. “This order clarifies once and for all that ICE’s ‘disorganized’ and ‘weak’ efforts have been wholly insufficient to prevent the needless infection of thousands of people within its custody, and that all people with risk factors in detention are worthy of meaningful review for release.”

“As we celebrate this win, we must ground ourselves in the abhorrent reality that people on the inside continue to face. And that is: We should not have to be here,” said Veronica Salama, an attorney at the SPLC. “ICE’s failure to release people from detention bears responsibility for over 6,000 positive cases and the loss of eight individuals who should be alive and free today. This disaster is a result of ICE’s deliberate indifference to the humanity of the immigrants they choose to detain.”

The Fraihat v. ICE lawsuit filed by Disability Law United, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in August of 2019 seeks an end to the inhumane and traumatic experience of ICE detention affecting tens of thousands across the country.

Read the order here.

Read more about the case here.


Disability Law United is a nonprofit membership organization whose goal is to ensure that everyone can fully and independently participate in our nation’s civic life without discrimination based on race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. https://disabilitylawunited.org/.

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), founded in 1993, is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting, housing, and juvenile justice. https://www.dralegal.org.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.

Orrick has 27 offices worldwide, and focuses on serving the Technology, Energy & Infrastructure and Finance sectors globally. Clients worldwide call on Orrick’s teams for forward-looking commercial advice on transactions, litigation and compliance matters.  https://www.orrick.com/en/About-Us.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is an international law firm of more than 700 attorneys with offices in New York, Washington, Houston, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Brussels, Milan and Rome. The Firm is headquartered in New York City at 787 Seventh Avenue. Tel: 212.728.8000. https://www.willkie.com/about-us


black and white close-up photo of prison bars

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