Miami Law’s Immigration Clinic Files Suit Against ICE for Ignoring CDC COVID-19 Guidelines

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barbed wire and mask

A lawsuit, filed by the University of Miami School of Law’s Immigration Clinic on April 13, 2020, accuses U.S. Immigration authorities of ignoring COVID-19 guidelines in three Florida detention centers.

Joined by the Rapid Defense Network in New York, the Miami law firm, Prada Urizar LPPC, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Legal Aid Service of Broward County, the suit argues that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Attorney General are not individually segregating detainees who are infected or likely infected but instead housing women and men in group quarantine in the three South Florida detention centers.

“The house is on fire, and it’s time to get the people out," said the Director of the Immigration Clinic, Rebecca Sharpless, in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Miami Law second-year students, Katarina Gomez, Meredith Hoffman, Maria Llorens, Olivia Parise, and first-year students, Jacob Morse and Maria Piselli, worked nights and over the weekend to research and prepare the suit.

"No one should be locked up in life-threatening conditions when they could safely be sent home to their families," said Llorens. "I’m incredibly proud to be part of the clinic and to help highlight that ICE’s response to COVID-19 has been immoral and dangerous."

Miami Law’s Immigration Clinic provides a challenging opportunity for students to advocate on behalf of immigrants in a wide variety of complex immigration proceedings. The Immigration Clinic, established in Fall 2009, is dedicated to being an integral part of the wider immigrant and human rights advocacy community in South Florida and across the nation.

The suit seeks the release of detainees at the Krome Processing Center in Miami-Dade, the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, and the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven.

"Right now, detainees in ICE custody are unable to social distance, have no access to protective gear, and are in fear for their lives," said Gomez. "With a pandemic that is ravaging this country, there is absolutely no reason for these individuals to remain in civil custody, especially when other options are available.”

"Since the start, ICE’s response to COVID-19 has been, at the very least, subpar, and I’d argue, dangerous. I am honored to play a role in fighting the injustice that is taking place in ICE detention centers in South Florida. #FreeThemAll,” Gomez said.

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