Federal judge releases more immigrants detained in ICE facilities in Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A federal judge has ordered the immediate release of 22 more immigrants detained in two Pennsylvania ICE facilities because of the coronavirus. Philadelphia city lawmakers have joined the call to shut down the facilities.

“All of our clients have either medical complications or age that put them at high risk of death should they contract COVID-19,” said Vanessa Stine, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania. 

The group filed a lawsuit last week seeking the release of nearly two dozen medically vulnerable detainees after positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at ICE facilities in York and Pike counties. 

The suit came days after the ACLU helped free 13 detainees in Pennsylvania facilities where immigrants are kept double and triple bunks or worse, making social distancing nearly impossible.

“Once it's inside a facility, it’s difficult to stop the spread,” said Stine.

And on Tuesday, six Philadelphia City Councilmembers wrote to Gov. Tom Wolf, asking him to use executive powers to close the county-owned, federally-run facility in Berks County, where families are being held indefinitely. 

“We need to free our families. They came here for a better life and it shouldn’t be a death sentence,” said Councilmember Helen Gym.

ICE officials say they’ve suspended new intake at Berks, and have implemented cleaning and sanitation protocols to prevent spread of the virus.