Media Contact

CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office,

April 22, 2020

MIAMI, FL — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Florida sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last night on behalf of eight people being held in civil immigration detention at the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven, Florida. The lawsuit seeks their immediate release because, according to public health and detention experts,  their underlying medical conditions or age place them at high risk of serious illness or death in the event of COVID-19 infection, which is exceedingly likely at the Glades facility given its crowded and unsanitary conditions.

“It is imperative that ICE follow the guidelines and the recommendations of public health experts and release individuals such as our clients who have already been identified as being at high risk of harm due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Amien Kacou, staff attorney at the ACU of Florida. “ICE is responsible for the safety and health of every single person in immigrant detention. They have already taken too long to respond to this urgent crisis and that could be fatal for our clients.”

Detainees at Glades live in extremely close quarters and lack sufficient access to basic hygiene items. It is impossible for them to follow the risk mitigation instructions provided by public health authorities, including maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others, as well as frequent hand washing and cleaning of surfaces. Despite the enormous risk that the disease poses to the health and safety of vulnerable individuals like our clients under these circumstances, ICE continues to hold them in custody.

The CDC has identified as particularly high risk people with blood disorders (including sickle cell disease), chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease (including hepatitis), compromised immune systems (including due to HIV), current or recent pregnancy, endocrine disorders (such as diabetes), metabolic disorders, heart disease, lung disease (such as asthma and emphysema), or neurological conditions (such as seizure disorders and spinal injuries).

"The ACLU is filing these cases around the country because, for our clients, a COVID-19 infection would likely be a death sentence," said Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU's National Prison Project. "The moment is urgent — the health and wellbeing of detained immigrants, facility staff, and their communities are all at risk. Releasing people from detention is critical to flattening the curve and avoiding a humanitarian disaster."

The complaint can be found here: