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Judge Rejects Release of Vulnerable Immigration Detainees

Elizabeth Detention Center, an immigration jail that holds about 285 people, is a privately owned detention that is run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

A federal judge in Seattle on Thursday declined to order the release of immigration detainees who may be especially vulnerable to the new coronavirus because they are old or have underlying health conditions.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sought the release of nine detainees at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Northwest detention center in Tacoma.

U.S. District Judge James L. Robart denied their request for a temporary order releasing them while the case proceeds.

Robart said he was aware of the gravity and rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 crisis, but that there is no evidence of an outbreak at the privately run, 1,575-bed jail. Nor had the plaintiffs shown that ICE's precautions, which include suspending visitation and assessing detainees for symptoms, are inadequate, he said.

In an emailed statement the groups said they would continue fighting to free the detainees.

"I just hope our clients do not succumb to severe illness or death before we can procure their release," said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.