U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced California’s Adelanto ICE Processing Center was forced to release 250 “criminal aliens” due to a federal court order.
According to an ICE news release Tuesday, although the agency had requested the transfer of the now-freed detainees to other processing centers, ICE “has complied with the mandated reduction to the overall detainee population at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California, which has resulted in the release of dangerous criminal aliens into various communities.”
ICE officials said they had concerns that communities surrounding the processing center could face “unnecessary victimization by recidivist criminals.”
According to the San Bernardino Sun, the Adelanto facility is Southern California’s largest immigrant detention center. It’s operated by The Geo Group, a federal contractor, and is able to house a maximum 2,084 individuals.
The current headcount at the Adelanto facility, according to ICE officials, is estimated at 465, reduced from 730.
The Sun reported that the Oct. 15 order to release detainees — which came from Judge Terry J. Hatter of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California’s Western Division — was the result of an April American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California lawsuit accusing the facility of being overcrowded and not taking appropriate sanitization measures against coronavirus.
The ACLU asserted the detainees at Adelanto slept in bunk beds less than three feet or less apart, with up to eight detainees bunked in an 8-by-10 foot cell. The group also claimed detainees shared restrooms “with no disinfectant cleaner available for after use,” and that shower stalls were spaced fewer than six feet from each other, according to the Sun.
On Oct. 15, the Sun cited an ICE figure of 162 cases of coronavirus from a detainee outbreak and no deaths from the virus.
Hatter directed ICE to release 50 detainees daily starting on Oct. 19, until the Adelanto facility reached its target new maximum capacity.
The order additionally indicated ICE could deport detainees through “final deportation orders” as part of its reduction plan.
The ICE news release said the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division in Los Angeles determined that of the 730 detainees in Adelanto, “more than 85 percent had pending criminal charges and/or convictions.”
ICE said over 60 detainees “had final orders of removal by federal immigration judges.
“The criminal histories of those released included, but was not limited to: assault with a deadly weapon, battery, child cruelty, contempt/violating a protected order, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, driving without a license, driving under the influence (DUI), false imprisonment, fraud, hit and run, grand theft, obstructing a police officer, possession of a controlled substance, prostitution, sexual offenses (including lewd/lascivious acts with a child), weapons violations, and the federal offense of illegal reentry after removal,” ICE said.
“While opponents who continuously seek to discredit the agency might otherwise mislead the public to believe that those in detention pose no risk to public safety, nothing could be further from the truth,” acting ICE Director Tony H. Pham said in a statement.
“ICE has complied with this overreaching court order; however, the public should know that the ruling undoubtedly places them at greater risk,” Pham added.
“ICE has been placed in a difficult circumstance to comply with a binding order that completely contradicts our duty to this nation,” he also said. “These criminal aliens have serious convictions and charges — releasing them is an extremely risky gamble to take with public safety.”
ICE, however, attempted to reassure the public that it has “strict reporting requirements for those being placed on alternatives to detention (ATD).”
The ICE news release said that none of the Adelanto detainees were freed prior to officials determining “they did not pose a COVID-19 public health risk.”
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency said Adelanto’s ICE Processing Center has “restricted intakes and transfers to further protect those in custody.”
During the pandemic, ICE said it has adopted a routine and rigorous coronavirus testing protocol for detainees and staff at all detention facilities.
The agency reported it has followed the ERO COVID-19 Pandemic Response Requirements, which include “reducing the overall detained population, providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to all staff and detainees, suspending social visitation, and maximizing social distancing practices with staggered meals and recreation times.”
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