9 ICE Detainees Released From Bristol County In Effort To Stem Virus Spread

The immigration detention center at the Bristol County Sheriff's Office in Dartmouth, Mass. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The immigration detention center at the Bristol County Sheriff's Office in Dartmouth, Mass. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Nine people detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Bristol County House of Correction are going home after ICE voluntarily released six people and a federal judge on Friday ordered three others released due to the coronavirus pandemic.

These individuals are part of a sub-class of detainees, as described by U.S. District Court Judge William Young, in a federal class action suit filed on behalf of two plaintiffs represented by Lawyers for Civil Rights.

The federal immigration detainees ordered released have no criminal charges or convictions on their records, which is part of the reasoning Young provided for his ruling.

In previous hearings, Young has urged ICE to stop transferring new detainees into the Bristol County facilities and said reducing the population there is a priority given the pandemic.

Those ordered released are to be picked up in a personal vehicle, quarantined for 14 days in their home and monitored by ICE remotely.

Young also asked both parties to provide him with a list of 50 ICE detainees whom he should consider next for release. Citing the rapid spread of the virus throughout the state, the judge said he'll decide the cases of up to 10 individuals a day beginning next week.

"Ten a day, no oral hearings, this is not what we'd usually do, but I'm going to stick to that," Young said.

The class action suit comes after federal ICE detainees sent a series of letters addressed to the Massachusetts congressional delegation, asking for help in addressing what they described as "overcrowding" and the inability to practice social distancing. According to one of the letters, there are 57 detainees in one room with only 3 feet between bunk beds, parameters that fall far short of the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Thursday, BCSO reported its first positive test result in a health care worker who treated inmates and detainees in the women's center and the ICE facility, according to a press release from Sheriff Thomas Hodgson.

John Mohan, a spokesperson for ICE, said in a statement that the agency isn’t confirming or offering comment on reports of potential releases of ICE detainees from facilities in the region.

“I’m neither confirming nor denying; we’re not commenting on this either way at this time,” he said.

This article was originally published on April 03, 2020.


Headshot of Shannon Dooling

Shannon Dooling Investigative Reporter
Shannon Dooling was an investigative reporter at WBUR, focused on stories about immigration and criminal justice.



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