SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Border Report) — A federal judge in San Diego has ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release more than 50 medically-vulnerable detainees from the Otay Mesa Detention Center in South San Diego.

Judge Dana Sabraw ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court asking for the release of all detainees with pre-existing medical conditions and everyone over the age of 45.

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The ACLU said these detainees were exposed to COVID-19 at the detention center and their lives were at risk.

“Our primary and most pressing concern is the health and safety of people in harm’s way at Otay Mesa, where the rapidly escalating outbreak of COVID-19 threatens the health and safety of confined people and staff. We are pleased the court has ordered release, recognizing it is the only option to protect medically vulnerable people during this crisis.” said Monika Langarica, immigrants’ rights staff attorney with the ACLU.

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She added: “We will vigilantly monitor compliance with this order because it is clear that, left to their own devices, ICE and CoreCivic cannot be trusted to take care for people in their custody. And we will continue fighting on behalf of all vulnerable people in jails, prisons and detention centers during this global pandemic.”

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, 98 detainees — the most of any ICE facility nationwide — and eight employees at the Otay Mesa Detention Center had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Otay Mesa Detention Center
Otay Mesa Detention Center holds mostly migrants awaiting trial or asylum proceedings.

In a statement to Border Report, CoreCivic — the private company that runs Otay Mesa Detention Center — said the information provided to the judge was compiled with data provided by ICE Health Services Corps (IHSC), which provides the medical care at the facility.

“And it was made with the best available information we had from our partners at the time,” the statement said. “After receiving updated information from IHSC, we immediately filed a supplemental briefing with the court that included updated information.”

As for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it sent word that it “does not comment on pending litigation.”

On Monday, the judge will decide on the exact number of detainees to be released. It could be anywhere from 51 to 69.

Everyone set free will be screened for COVID-19. Where detainees will go upon their release is still undecided according to Langarica.

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