As COVID-19 spreads like wildfire across the country, medically vulnerable people held by U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on civil immigration charges risk severe illness or death from the disease. Detention facilities are vectors of coronavirus infection because they are crowded and often unsanitary, making it impossible for staff and those detained to follow CDC-recommended social distancing, hygiene and sanitation measures.

This means that detention on immigration charges is a potential death sentence for people who are older or have medical or health conditions that public health experts recognize elevates the risk of serious COVID-19 complications. But the purpose of immigration detention is to ensure that appear for immigration court hearings or deportations. Keeping medically vulnerable people detained at the risk of severe illness or death flies in the face of our basic values of fairness and protection from cruel punishment.

ICE must release medically vulnerable people held on civil immigration charges. We are not alone in making this call. Two medical experts of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, former ICE officials, medical and public health, and corrections experts are urging the release of medically vulnerable immigration detainees in order to protect them, detention facility staff, and the public at large.

Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee, IL

  • 5/14/20 - We filed a lawsuit seeking the release of Joaquin Herrera-Herrera a 60-year-old man with diagnosed hypertension and a history of prostate cancer. He was released on 5/19/20.
  • 6/26/20 - We filed an amended motion seeking release of seven additional men being held at the Jerome Combs Detention the Center. All seven men are being held on civil immigration charges and have pre-existing medical conditions that the Center for Disease Control say make one more vulnerable to COVID-19.
    • 7/24/20 – The court ruled against release of our clients, relying on the decreased ICE population in the jail. 

McHenry County Jail

Pulaski County Jail

  • 4/17/20 - With partners at the National Immigrant Justice Center, advocated for release of a woman with chronic bronchitis and respiratory issues. On 4/21/2020, she was released.




Nusrat Choudhury, Rebecca Glenberg, Juan Caballero, Aarón Siebert-Llera, Ana Torres (ACLU of Illinois), Michael Tan, Malita Picasso, Dror Ladin, David Fathi, Eunice H. Cho (ACLU), Colby A. Kingsbury (Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP)