Media Contact

Ed Sifuentes, ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties,, 619-501-3408

April 30, 2020

SAN DIEGO – Today, Judge Dana Sabraw issued an order directing the federal government to release more than 50 medically vulnerable individuals who are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. This is a result of a lawsuit filed last week by American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLUF-SDIC) in U.S. District Court demanding a drastic reduction in the number of detainees at the Otay Mesa Detention Center and the Imperial Regional Detention Facility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.

“Our primary and most pressing concern is the health and safety of people in harm’s way at Otay Mesa, where the rapidly escalating outbreak of COVID-19 threatens the health and safety of confined people and staff. We are pleased the court has ordered release, recognizing it is the only option to protect medically vulnerable people during this crisis,” said Monika Langarica, immigrants’ rights staff attorney with the ACLUF-SDIC. “We will vigilantly monitor compliance with this order because it is clear that, left to their own devices, ICE and CoreCivic cannot be trusted to care for people in their custody. And we will continue fighting on behalf of all vulnerable people in jails, prisons and detention centers during this global pandemic.”

The lawsuit, filed on April 21, included a request for an emergency temporary restraining order calling for the immediate release from Otay Mesa of all people age 45 and over, and people with underlying medical conditions that place them at heightened risk of serious illness or death due to COVID-19. The judge granted the request, ordering the release of medically vulnerable people, including people who are age 60 and over.

In an April 28 hearing on the ACLUF-SDIC lawsuit, attorneys for CoreCivic, the company that runs the Otay Mesa facility, told the court there were eight individuals in ICE custody at higher risk for severe illness due to the virus. One day later, CoreCivic filed a supplement with the court saying they “acquired new information” from ICE that “51-69 ICE detainees” are at “higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19.”

A copy of the judge’s order is here: