NSC attorneys continue to take action to defend the rights of immigrants, file a petition for the release of immigrants from detention in York and Pike
Nationalities Service Center, working with the law firm Gian-Grasso, Tomczak & Hufe, filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Engelund et al. v. Doll et al., No. 20-cv-00604 (M. D. PA Apr. 10, 2020), requesting that the Federal Court release 15 individuals being held in civil immigration detention at the York County Prison and the Pike County Correctional Facility given the public health crisis caused by COVID-19.
As of Monday April 13, an emergency request to release the detainees is pending before District Court Judge Brann. The detainees are from a variety of countries, including Denmark, China, and Guatemala, but all suffer from pre-existing conditions that have been identified by the CDC as putting them at particular risk for serious complications or death from the disease.
Because COVID-19 is a novel virus, no population immunity exits, and the illness is spreading exponentially throughout the globe. There is no cure and no vaccine. Accordingly, the only effective means of combatting the spread of the virus is through social distancing, or staying far enough apart from other people so as to break the chain of transmission. This basic response, which is being practiced by most Americans, is physically impossible inside of a detention center, where noncitizens are either held three to a cell in Pike, or in dorm rooms that sleep 40 to 50 people at York.
Our clients have described a grim scene, where there is limited shared information, people are falling ill, there is a lack of basic protective equipment and even soap, and where in some cases individuals are being transferred out of the facility without explanation. Accordingly, as we have seen at Cook County Jail in Chicago or Riker’s Island Jail in New York, prisons are a uniquely dangerous place given the pandemic. Continuing to hold individuals in such conditions is a serious violation of human rights.