On April 17, 2020, the ACLU of New Hampshire and national ACLU, together with law firms Nixon Peabody LLP, Whatley Kallas LLP, Shaheen & Gordon PA, Newman Law Office PLLC, and Hinckley Allen & Snyder LLP brought a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking the immediate release of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) civil detainees from Strafford County Department of Corrections. Medical authorities have emphatically stated that maintaining a social distance of six feet is crucial to preventing the spread of COVID-19—something that is impossible at the Dover facility.
The failure by ICE to release detainees in Dover puts detainees, staff, and the broader community at grave risk of death or serious injury. The virus is already spreading through correctional facilities across the country with devastating consequences. We are demanding immediate action to stem this outbreak and save lives.
The conditions at the center that demand release for these inmates include:
- Bunk beds are placed only two to three feet apart.
- Detainees share sinks, toilets, counters, and showers.
- Food service is communal, with many people eating at the same table
Because of these conditions, immigrants detained at Strafford County are at a heightened risk of exposure to the virus. This is not only inhumane, but also violates the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
On May 1, 2020, the Court ordered that, as a result of COVID-19, at least those who are medically vulnerable are entitled to a bail hearing to determine whether they should be released. This order was issued in writing on May 14, 2020. On May 4, 2020, the Court issued an order on how medical vulnerability is to be determined. On May 4, 2020, the Court provisionally granted class certification., and on June 16, the Court denied the Government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. On July 1, 2020, the Court denied bail hearings to those who are not medically vulnerable.