Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday directed officials around the country to consider releasing some medically vulnerable inmates to minimize the risk of coronavirus outbreaks, reports BuzzFeed News.
The agency also said it was evaluating whether to release immigrants over the age of 60 as well as those who are pregnant.
More than 160 immigrants have already been released by ICE in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has killed nearly 13,000 people and infected more than 390,000 in the United States.
ICE is currently holding more than 34,000 detainees, the majority of whom don’t have a criminal record, according to USA Today.
The ACLU has sued ICE facilities in multiple states over coronavirus concerns. The Southern Poverty Law Center in late March demanded that ICE take steps to safeguard the health of vulnerable immigrants and asked a federal court in California to order their release if the agency didn’t so.
The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services also cited the pandemic in its lawsuit seeking the release of migrant families with children in Texas and Pennsylvania.
In response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in Seattle, Justice Department lawyers said the argument that detention "poses an increased risk of health complications or death from COVID-19 is purely speculative” and that immigrants at a detention center in Tacoma, Washington, have "greater access to robust medical care than the general public."
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