Federal magistrate advises against release of ICE detainees who petitioned for release amid pandemic

A federal magistrate has advised against the release of over five dozen prisoners being held by immigration officials in Minnesota.

Sherburne County Jail

A federal magistrate has advised against the release of over five dozen prisoners being held by immigration officials in Minnesota casting doubt on their claims of increased risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Sixty-two federal ICE detainees being held in Sherburne County Jail petitioned the court for release in late March claiming COVID-19 infection fears and asked to be released on home monitoring. 

That release request was advised against on Tuesday by U.S. magistrate Elizabeth Cowan Wright who found that the petitioners “failed to show they are more likely than not to suffer imminent and irreparable harm if they remain in detention.” 

The 65-page document detailing the opinion also stated that the detainees didn’t demonstrate that they could effectively isolate if released. The detainees also did not prove that the jail was acting with “deliberate indifference” to the detainees’ safety, “especially where there is no indication that COVID-19 is presently within the facility.”

Current information on the Minnesota Department of Health website indicates that there are no known cases of COVID-19 within the population at Sherburne County Jail. The MDH data states that only seventy-nine incarcerated persons in Minnesota have tested positive for COVID-19 and that only one positive case has required hospitalization. There have been zero deaths within Minnesota’s prison population of over 9,300 due to the virus. 

New statistics revealed on Wednesday by the MDH also stated that over 99% of COVID-19 related deaths in Minnesota have been residents of nursing homes or similar long term care facilities, or were persons who had suffered from a significant underlying health condition.

The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has detailed a lengthy plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that includes health and safety guidance for facilities housing detainees.

Attorney for the detainees, Frederick J. Goetz, said he will file an objection to Wright’s recommendation on Friday, according to a report on the opinion. The case then goes to U.S. Judge Nancy Brasel, who will issue an independent final ruling.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota