ACLU Sues ICE, DHS, to Obtain Policies on COVID-19 Antiviral Medications in Immigration Detention

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By Caleigh Carlisle

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, and Goodwin Procter LLP last week announced a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for failure to produce requested documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding Covid-19 antiviral treatment in detention facilities.

The documents include information concerning the type of antiviral medications as well as the number of treatments prescribed and provided to detainees, and were first requested by the ACLU on Jan. 5, 2023.

According to the ACLU’s press release, “[B]oth federal agencies have yet to produce any documents.”

The ACLU said that while recent studies show that antiviral drugs, such as Paxlovid, are easily administered and can prevent serious illness and death from Covid-19, ICE’s most recently published guidelines regarding the management of Covid-19 “do not include any requirements for facilities to obtain or provide… antiviral medications for people held in detention.”

According to the ACLU, the policy “only recommends that facilities be assessed for treatment with monoclonal antibody therapy, which is no longer authorized by the FDA.”

Kyle Virgien, a Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project, stated, “People in ICE detention… [are] being unnecessarily denied these medications. In effect, ICE has turned back the clock to 2020 for people in detention, leaving them at serious risk.”

The ACLU said, according to ICE, more than 52,000 people detained in its custody have tested positive for Covid-19. The ACLU indicated in the press release that infection rates in ICE detention facilities have reached up to 20 times greater than in the general public.

“ICE must turn over all records related to antiviral medications without delay,” said Linnea P. Cipriano, co-counsel in the lawsuit and partner at Goodwin. “By all indications, facilities are knowingly failing to provide medications that could save lives. The public has a right to know if that’s the case and to demand change.”

The ACLU asks that both DHS and ICE “be required to immediately process and disclose, in their entirety, unredacted versions of all records responsive to the FOIA request.”

About The Author

Caleigh is a junior at Davis Senior High School. She enjoys playing her violin and learning different languages. Caleigh is currently exploring an interest in journalism and social justice.

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