Friday, April 10, 2020 | 6:35 p.m.
A federal judge on Thursday denied the release of an immigration detainee with underlying medical conditions whose lawsuit claimed his stay at the Henderson Detention Center is a death trap due to the possible exposure to the coronavirus at the facility.
Daniel Mosso Ramirez, 45, has until May 11 to appeal the decision, wrote U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey in denying the temporary protection order filed against Immigration and Customs Enforcement on his behalf by the Nevada chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“This ruling is a setback, but we’re going to keep fighting to protect vulnerable detainees and prisoners from COVID-19,” said Sherrie Royster, ACLU Nevada legal director, in a statement.
Ramirez, who takes medication, has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes hypertension and high cholesterol, according to the motion. COVID-19 has proven to be more dangerous for such patients.
Out of the 75 people killed in Clark County by the coronavirus as of Friday, 56% had at least one underlying medical condition — hypertension and diabetes being the most common, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.
Dorsey, the judge, wrote that Ramirez’s claim did not establish “that he will suffer irreparable harm absent immediate release” and that the allegations that COVID-19 was present at the jail was “speculative at this point.”
The lawsuit argued that about a dozen inmates had been placed in quarantine after an ICE employee who transported them from Utah had later tested positive for the novel virus.
But Dorsey wrote that, according to a response to the suit from the government, no inmate, detainee or ICE employee at the detention center had tested positive for COVID-19. ICE contracts a wing from the Henderson Detention Center to hold its inmates.
Thus far, 61 detainees and 86 ICE employees, 19 of whom work in detention centers, have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Department of Homeland Security. No cases of ICE inmates or staffers have been reported in Nevada.
Two days after the motion was filed, ICE released Christopher Njingu, 51, from the facility. The Cameroon national, who was detained as he sought asylum, was originally named in the lawsuit.
The judge then outlined the precautions she says ICE is taking to mitigate the spread of the virus. Jail employees are screened every workday, and their temperature is checked, she wrote. Inmates are also screened during booking, she added.
Staffers have proper personal protective equipment, the facility has implemented increased cleaning and sanitation, and in-person visitations have been suspended, according to the judge’s motion. A bio-hazard cleaning company was contracted to sanitize areas used by quarantined inmates.
Ramirez, who was a longtime legal U.S. resident, was flagged for deportation for a 2002 drug conviction. He’s been in custody since late February.
“A mere possibility of harm is insufficient to warrant the extraordinary relief of a temporary restraining order,” the judge wrote. “Even if Ramirez had shown that unsafe conditions at (the jail) have risen to the level of a constitutional violation, he has not demonstrated that the proper remedy for that violation would be his immediate release.”