YORK COUNTY, Pa. — For the second time in the past week, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III has granted a temporary restraining order directing the release of immigrants being held in civil detention due to concerns over COVID-19.
Jones III ordered the immediate release of the 22 additional immigrants on April 7, citing that these people have preexisting medical conditions, making them a higher risk to be afflicted by the coronavirus.
13 of those 22 immigrants have been held in York County Prison. They emigrated from countries such as Pakistan and Ukraine.
The 9 other immigrants have been held at Pike County Correctional Facility.
They all suffer from chronic health conditions ranging from emphysema to diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
According to the lawsuit, some of those being held have been in the United States for more than 20 years as lawful permanent residents.
The courts, Jones III said, cannot leave the most fragile unprotected to face the growing danger of COVID-19.
“We are mindful that judicial decisions such as these are both controversial and difficult for the public to absorb,” Jones wrote in the memo and order. “It is all too easy for some to embrace the notion that individuals such as Petitioners should be denied relief simply because they lack citizenship in this country.”
“However,” he added, “Courts do not operate according to polls or the popular will, but rather to do justice and to rule according to the facts and the law.”
So far, four immigrants and four employees at Pike County Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
One immigrant has tested positive at York County Prison.
The immigrants will be released on their own recognizance, and must self-quarantine for 14 days.
They will await the disposition of their cases, and officials have until noon on April 13 to show why the order should not be made permanent.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Tuesday reported that statewide there have been 14,559 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 240 deaths.