NEW YORK, NY, March 26, 2020 – Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP and Public Counsel today announced the filing of an emergency action on behalf of two longtime California residents who were arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in immigration raids conducted amid the global coronavirus pandemic. On March 16 and 17, with Los Angeles and the nation already on high alert to respond to the coronavirus, ICE agents targeted longtime California residents Pedro Bravo Castillo, 58, and Luis Vasquez Rueda, 23, in business-as-usual detention activities. They arrested Mr. Bravo and Mr. Vasquez out of their homes, transported them in cramped vans with other individuals of unknown health status, and have detained them for over a week in a crowded facility that has been repeatedly criticized for offering inadequate medical care. Throughout these actions, ICE failed to take basic precautions and subjected Mr. Bravo and Mr. Vasquez to increased risk of exposure, even as medical experts and government officials at all levels were sounding the alarm about the unprecedented threat of COVID-19 and urging the public to protect themselves through social distancing and other protective measures.
The petition for habeas corpus and accompanying emergency request for a temporary restraining order filed by Kaplan Hecker & Fink and Public Counsel alleges that ICE’s decision to arrest and hold these individuals in spite of those grave health risks violates their constitutional Due Process rights under the Fifth Amendment, and it asks a Court to order their immediate release. It explains that ICE’s actions have put Mr. Bravo, Mr. Vasquez, and others like them in harm’s way and deprived them of the ability to protect their health at the worst possible moment. As public health expert Dr. Ranit Mishori explains in a declaration filed in connection with the case, immigration detention facilities are particularly ill suited to contain the coronavirus, and an outbreak in the Adelanto ICE Processing Center where Mr. Bravo and Mr. Vasquez are detained “has the potential to become a devastating public health event.”
“In the midst of an exploding global pandemic that has threatened communities across the country, ICE conducted business-as-usual raids, needlessly tearing longtime Los Angeles residents like our clients away from their homes and families,” said Michael Skocpol, an associate with Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP. “As a result, our clients are now crowded into detention facilities where they face grave health risks and cannot meaningfully protect themselves. ICE must correct this ongoing violation of their constitutional rights by releasing them immediately.”
Joshua Matz, Michael Skocpol, Kyla Magun, and Dylan Cowit contributed to the filings from Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP. Mark Rosenbaum, Judy London, Talia Inlender, Jesselyn Friley, Elizabeth Hercules-Paez, and Amanda Savage contributed from Public Counsel.