In advance of bail hearings beginning at 10 AM today before U.S. District Judge Mary McElroy to consider the release of ICE detainees at the Wyatt Detention Center, the judge has released a 15-page decision explaining her decision to order the hearings. The hearings are in response to a class-action lawsuit filed by ACLU attorneys two weeks ago seeking urgent relief for immigration detainees at the facility facing the increasing spread of Covid-19 there.

In addition, ICE officials yesterday voluntarily agreed to release three of the detainees, obviating the need for bail hearings for them.  Before this case was filed, the ACLU separately won a lawsuit that secured the release of three other medically vulnerable ICE detainees from Wyatt.

In her explanatory Order released late yesterday, Judge McElroy said that “conditions at Wyatt, combined with the fact that COVID-19 is present in the institution, constitute emergency circumstances for every detainee housed there.” She criticized “the fact that several months into this pandemic and with widespread infection in the detention facility and surrounding community, the government has not undertaken any real effort to ascertain the underlying medical conditions of the detainees in this case.” The judge concluded by stating that conditions at Wyatt “present a case for a substantial claim of constitutional error and present facts which may lead the Court to conclude that their continued detention under these circumstances presents a substantial risk of serious harm of death.”

The individualized bail hearings are expected to take place over a number of days.  The lawsuit is being handled by attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Rhode Island cooperating attorneys Deborah Gonzalez and Jared Goldstein, and lawyers from the firm Morgan Lewis. The suit was filed at a time when the count of detainees at the facility infected with COVID-19 more than doubled in three days.

More information about the lawsuit can be found here.