HOUSTON – Attorneys representing a woman recently released from an immigration detention facility in Houston by a federal court in April have moved to convert the case into a class action to protect other medically-vulnerable people from COVID-19. At the time the original case was filed, only one staffer at the detention center had tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, six new cases of COVID-19 at the detention center have been publicly confirmed.
In the ongoing suit, attorneys from the ACLU of Texas, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and the national ACLU have amended their original complaint to add four new medically vulnerable plaintiffs seeking their release from the Montgomery Processing Center (MPC) in Conroe, Texas. It also seeks the release of all those at heightened risk of serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19 due to age or an underlying medical condition under CDC guidelines.
“No one who is vulnerable to serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19 should be forced to remain in unsafe detention conditions,” said Kate Huddleston, attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “The release of all vulnerable individuals who are facing a mortal fate in detention is urgently necessary.”
“All detainees who are similarly situated to those who have already been released since this case was filed on April 8 deserve the same relief and protections under the law,” said Paul Genender, partner and head of litigation of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP’s Dallas office. Class certification is a way to protect the rights and safety of the scores of detainees who are presently at risk.”
There are more than 800 individuals detained at MPC, as of April 28, 2020. The plaintiffs argue that their detention at MPC, where they cannot follow public-health guidelines and where confirmed cases are growing, puts them in imminent danger of contracting COVID-19, violates their Fifth Amendment right to due process. They are asking the court to free all people at MPC who are over the age of 50 and/or have an underlying health condition under CDC guidelines that place them at heightened risk of serious illness or death.
The amended complaint and motion for class certification were filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.