Court Finds Bristol County Sheriff and ICE Likely Violated Constitutional Rights of Immigrant Detainees in Their Care

May 7, 2020
1:22 PM

Sheriff Thomas Hodgson of Bristol County, Massachusetts, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, at the South Portico of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian/Public Domain)

The following media release was shared on Thursday afternoon by Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) in Boston:

BOSTON — In a powerful order, a federal court in Boston ruled strongly in favor of immigrants detained by ICE at Bristol County. The court ruled that the Bristol County Sheriff and ICE likely have acted unconstitutionally and shown deliberate indifference to the substantial risk of serious harm posed by COVID-19 to the detainees in their care. As evidence, the court pointed to BCHOC’s failure to conduct comprehensive testing or contact tracing, and its refusal to voluntarily consider release of any detainees. To date, the class action has resulted in the release of 50 detainees. In an order known as a preliminary injunction, the court ordered COVID-19 testing be made available as soon as possible for all detainees and all staff at Bristol County having any contact with immigrant detainees, at ICE’s expense. The court also ordered that there be no new persons admitted to immigration detention at Bristol County, effective immediately. These key measures are important steps in addressing the very real life-or-death threats experienced by immigrants at Sheriff Hodgson’s facility.

The court also powerfully acknowledged that the ICE detention policies as a whole, which the court must uphold, may well be “misguided,” as immigrants’ rights advocates long have argued. The Court noted that there may well be tens of thousands of individuals in immigration custody whom ICE might be equally able to supervise were they confined to a known place of residence rather than incarcerated.

The case is Savino v. Souza, 20-CV-10617, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.


Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, Latino Rebels Radio spoke with Iván Espinoza-Madrigal of LCR about the lawsuit and Thursday’s May 7 hearing.