U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement claimed Tuesday that a Los Angeles federal judge’s order that drastically reduced the detainee population at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center amid a major outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in the release of dangerous criminals into various communities.
The reduction ordered by U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. is now complete with the current detainee count at the 2,084-person capacity detention facility down to 465, ICE said.
In compliance with Hatter’s order, Adelanto, which is maintained by a federal contractor, released more than 250 detainees — a decision ICE warns could lead to “unnecessary victimization by recidivist criminals.”
“While opponents who continuously seek to discredit the agency might otherwise mislead the public to believe that those in detention pose no risk to public safety, nothing could be further from the truth,” said Tony H. Pham, the interim ICE director. “ICE has complied with this overreaching court order; however, the public should know that the ruling undoubtedly places them at greater risk.”
Prior to the reduction, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations in Los Angeles said it had assessed that among the roughly 730 undocumented immigrants detained at Adelanto, more than 85% had pending criminal charges and/or convictions. Among those ordered released, over 60 had final orders of removal by federal immigration judges.
The criminal histories of those released included violations ranging from assault with a deadly weapon to drug crimes and the federal offense of illegal reentry into the United States after removal, according to ICE.
The court order is the latest development in the class-action lawsuit Hernandez Roman v Wolf, originally filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California.
Jessica Bansal, senior staff attorney at the ACLU SoCal, said previously that Hatter’s order “confirms that our Constitution does not condone such basic disregard for human lives and safety.”
Previous decisions in the case pointed out that the Adelanto center was a tinder box for COVID-19, and noted that among the conditions there were:
— bunk beds placed only two and a half to three feet apart;
— tiny cells populated by four to eight people;
— detainees sharing sinks, toilets, counters and showers, with no disinfectant cleaner available for after use;
— showers placed less than six feet apart; and
— food preparation and service in a communal fashion, with six to 10 people eating at the same table.
Other rulings have declared urgent actions must be taken to alleviate conditions at the center, but the government repeatedly sought delays, even as COVID-19 spread through the facility in the Mojave Desert, according to the ACLU.
The initial outbreak was most likely caused by a staff member who reported to work at the facility infected with COVID-19, but contact tracing has apparently not been completed and the source of the outbreak has not been identified, according to a previous judge’s order, which modified a prior injunction.
In its statement Tuesday, ICE said safety has consistently remained a top priority for the federal agency, and has complied with all safety guidelines.
“ICE has been placed in a difficult circumstance to comply with a binding order that completely contradicts our duty to this nation,” Pham said. “These criminal aliens have serious convictions and charges — releasing them is an extremely risky gamble to take with public safety.”
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: