Judge Orders ICE to Develop Vaccination Plan for People in ICE Custody in New York

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
February 26, 2021 1:30 pm

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Yesterday, the Western District of New York ordered ICE to develop a vaccination plan for people detained by ICE in the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia who would otherwise be eligible under state vaccine guidelines. The judge ruled that the failure to do so is a deprivation of due process rights for people in the facility, and ordered ICE to develop a plan by Wednesday March 3.

This is the first court order nationwide securing COVID-19 vaccines for people in ICE-run facilities. The order was issued in Jones et al v. Wolf et al, a case suit filed by Prisoners Legal Services of New York to secure protective measures for people in Batavia. The NYCLU joined PLSNY in a subsequent lawsuit, Rivera v. Wolf, expanding Jones into a class-action suit.

In response to the order, PLSNY and the NYCLU issued the following statements:

“We are thrilled with the judge’s decision in this case. When we filed this case we noted that the individuals in ICE custody in Batavia were like ‘sitting ducks’ just waiting for COVID to enter the facility and infect them. The subsequent failure of ICE to develop a vaccination plan in line with the statewide vaccination plan took this analogy to the nth degree. This decision will help level the playing field, protecting the health and safety of the most vulnerable in our state, despite where they are currently living,” said Karen Murtagh, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York.

“We are not asking that medically vulnerable civil detainees who fit the criteria for vaccination be allowed to jump the line, we are only asking that they be permitted to join the line,” said John Peng, attorney from Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York.

“This is an overdue victory for the people being held in Batavia, who have little capacity to protect themselves from COVID-19 and are uniquely exposed to the virus. ICE has neglected to make a vaccination plan on their own, instead opting to delay and duck responsibility. People in ICE detention and working in ICE facilities are in ICE’s care, period. There is no excuse for further delays, ICE must come back to the court with an immediate, actionable plan on Wednesday,” said Amy Belsher, staff attorney from the NYCLU.

For more information on the ruling or to arrange an interview, please reach out to media@nyclu.org.

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