Immigrants’ rights groups play a crucial part in the national effort to protect detained individuals from COVID-19. The primary case seeking the release of immigrants detained in Maryland during the COVID-19 pandemic, Coreas v. Bounds, was dismissed without prejudice. Through this case, immigrants were supported by a coalition of groups, playing a crucial part in the national effort to protect detained individuals from COVID-19 and supporting the successful advocacy efforts to close all immigrant detention facilities in Maryland.
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Facing inhumane conditions in Maryland detention facilities in 2020, six individuals detained in facilities in the DMV were represented by the National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Maryland, and the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"At the time we filed this case, immigrants detained in Maryland jails were facing inhumane conditions in facilities fundamentally ill-equipped to protect people from a dangerous pandemic,” said Amber Qureshi, Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Project. “We are glad that, through this lawsuit, our clients were released to be with their families and communities, and we are thrilled to see immigration detention finally end in Maryland."
Since then, the powerful collaborative efforts of NIPNLG, the ACLU, ACLU of Maryland, and CAIR Coalition have been part of the national effort to protect detained people from COVID-19, complementing the work of the advocates who played a key, parallel role in organizing the campaigns to shut down Maryland detention centers.
“Throughout this litigation, we have sought – and won – release of people from ICE detention who were especially vulnerable to Covid-19,” said Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project. “At the end of the day, there is no bigger relief than knowing that every ICE detention center in the state of Maryland will be closed, bringing this litigation to an end, and ensuring people will no longer be unnecessarily held in dangerous conditions.”
The lawsuit’s early victories of individual injunctions were instrumental in securing the release for not only the named plaintiffs but were persuasive in several other cases in Maryland, the Fourth Circuit, and nationwide. The litigation from these early victories was used for many other immigration cases across the country and prompted ICE to "voluntarily" release many more people.
“The situation for immigrants detained in Maryland would have been much worse during the pandemic without the tenacious efforts of the team in this case and the organizers on the ground who have advocated for the rights of immigrants detained in Maryland,” said Adina Appelbaum, Program Director of the Immigration Impact Lab at the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition. “We are especially grateful to our co-counsel partner organizations that stood by immigrants detained in Maryland and provided national support and resources to fight for their release throughout the pandemic, during one of the darkest of times we have seen at CAIR Coalition to be detained.”
Not only were detained individuals directly released because of this case, but it also played a vital role in ensuring the government’s detention of immigrants during the pandemic was closely monitored by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland and supported the national effort to protect detained individuals during COVID-19.
“At a time when thousands of people were dying from COVID-19 with limited to no vaccine availability, the immigrants who brought this case were especially vulnerable to serious illness or death due to their underlying health conditions,” said Nick Taichi Steiner, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Maryland. “We are so thankful for the monumental effort of the advocacy community to end immigration detention in Maryland, and the courageous people in this case, who helped fight for the welfare and dignity of all those held in inhumane conditions.”