A federal judge in Miami order the release of most U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees at three Florida facilities on Thursday, citing “cruel and unusual punishment,” a report said.


U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke determined that immigration authorities failed in their “duty to protect the safety and general well-being of the petitioners,” the Miami Herald reported.  She said these authorities acted with “deliberate indifference” to the conditions at these facilities despite the coronavirus pandemic’s spread in the U.S.

She wrote that evidence shows ICE failed to protect these detainees and pointed out that social distancing in some of these cases is impossible.

“Further,  ICE has failed to provide detainees in some detention centers with masks, soap and other cleaning supplies, and failed to ensure that all detainees housed at the three detention centers can practice social distancing,” Cooke wrote, according to the Herald.

The paper said a lawyer for ICE did not immediately respond to its inquiry.

ICE has about 30,000 people detained and tested just 705 detainees, according to its publicly released figures. The agency recently said it would receive 2,000 tests a month from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ramp up testing of detainees.

Two guards at an immigration detention center in Louisiana have died after contracting the coronavirus, raising new questions about whether the U.S. government is adequately protecting 30,000 detainees and the staff guarding them.

Relatives of both Carl Lenard, 62, and Stanton Johnson, 51, said the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, Louisiana, had at one point prevented them from wearing masks as the virus spread through the facility.

Immigration rights activists say many of the facilities holding the detainees are unhygienic and put detainees at risk for infection.

Rebecca Sharpless, the director of the University of Miami School of Law’s Immigration Clinic, told the paper that she fears ICE will essentially find a loophole to keep the detainees in its custody by transferring some to other facilities.


Sharpless told Law 360 in an email that “judicial oversight is sorely needed” because these  detainees live in “crowded conditions” where they eat and sleep “within less than six feet of one another.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report