University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Coronel v. Decker IM-NY-0074
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-02472 ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization Bronx Defenders
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
COVID-19 summary: In this case, federal district judge Allison Nathan (SDNY) granted emergency relief on March 26, 2020, requiring ICE to release seven at-risk detainees from immigration detention in light of the grave threat posed by congregate detention during the COVID-19 pandemic.
________ ... read more >
COVID-19 summary: In this case, federal district judge Allison Nathan (SDNY) granted emergency relief on March 26, 2020, requiring ICE to release seven at-risk detainees from immigration detention in light of the grave threat posed by congregate detention during the COVID-19 pandemic.
_______________________________________________________________

On March 20, 2020, seven persons held in civil immigration detention centers in the New York City area -- who because of serious and chronic medical conditions face a significant risk of severe illness or death if they catch COVID-19 -- filed this habeas petition and complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Represented by the Bronx Defenders and the Legal Aid Society, the plaintiffs sued the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) New York City field office, the director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the United States Attorney General, and the directors of three New York City area civil immigration detention facilities. The plaintiffs claimed that the risk posed to them by continued detention during an outbreak of COVID-19 in New York City that reached a New York City ICE facility violated their procedural and substantive due process rights. They sought an order "directing Defendants to immediately release Plaintiffs from custody on their own recognizance or on reasonable conditions of supervision" or, in the alternative, "an order requiring Defendants to provide Plaintiffs with constitutionally adequate, individualized hearings within 48 hours" and prove that continued detention is justified in light of plaintiffs' vulnerability to COVID-19. The plaintiffs also sought attorneys' fees and costs. The case was assigned to Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.

The New York City metropolitan area was an epicenter of the global COVID-19 pandemic; at the time the complaint was filed, there were "over 7,800 confirmed cases in New York and New Jersey and 44 virus-related deaths." To contain the outbreak, officials in New York took unprecedented measures to emphasize and enforce social distancing, ordering workers to stay home, banning gatherings of over 50 people, and shutting down schools, restaurants, and bars. However, immigration detention facilities, where detainees are "packed in close quarters" and "forced to share necessities like showers, telephones, toilets and sinks with dozens of others" make the practice of adequate social distancing difficult. If COVID-19 were introduced into these detention centers its spread would be difficult to contain. The spread of COVID-19 (for which there is no vaccine, known treatment, or cure) would be especially dangerous for detainees with serious medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney malfunction. Medical health experts have concluded that reducing jail populations is a "necessary component of risk mitigation during widespread COVID-19 outbreak, and that officials should first focus on vulnerable populations to reduce harm to the entire population."

The plaintiffs claimed that "the continued imprisonment of these high-risk individuals violates their due process rights both by constituting deliberate indifference to serious medical harm and by failing to provide procedural safeguards commensurate with the serious deprivation of life and liberty that they face." Moreover, the plaintiffs asserted that ICE has the authority to release individuals like the plaintiffs but that ICE has not responded to plaintiffs' request for bond or release, despite the evidence that plaintiffs are neither dangerous nor flight risks. Under normal circumstances, the plaintiffs would be able to seek bond hearings in immigration courts to prove that they are not a danger or flight risk. However, plaintiffs claimed that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, immigration courts in the New York City area "no longer provide an effective venue for detainees to vindicate their right to review their detention through bond hearings." Thus, the plaintiffs argued that they were unable to "promptly access any meaningful administrative remedy" and that bringing this suit was their only recourse.

The plaintiffs requested that this case be filed as related to Velesaca v. Decker (IM-NY-0072 in this Clearinghouse), a case in which the plaintiffs' requested relief of individualized custody determinations for civil immigration detainees was made more urgent by the risk of COVID-19 spreading in ICE facilities.

On March 23, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a motion for temporary restraining order (TRO), seeking an "order directing their immediate release while this case proceeds in order to prevent potentially irreversible injury, in a situation where the 'magnitude of risk [] grow[s] exponentially' by the day and even the hour." At the time this motion was filed, plaintiffs stated that COVID-19 had spread to at least two of the jails where ICE held five of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs asserted that they would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a TRO, that they would succeed on the merits of their claims of deliberate indifference and lack of procedural safeguards, and that the balance of equities and public interest weigh in their favor; thus, a TRO granting their immediate release was appropriate.

The case was reassigned to Judge Alison J. Nathan on March 25.

After holding oral argument before the court on March 26, Judge Nathan issued an opinion and order granting the plaintiffs' motion for TRO, requiring defendants to release the plaintiffs from immigration detention "on reasonable conditions." Judge Nathan held that the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable injury absent a TRO, considering the increased risk of severe injury or death if they catch COVID-19 due to their underlying health conditions. Judge Nathan also concluded that continued detention in immigration detention "places Petitioners at significantly higher risk of contracting COVID-19" and that "jails will struggle to contain any eventual outbreak of COVID-19." Judge Nathan further found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their substantive due process claim that defendants acted with deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs, noting that "the record contains no evidence that the Government took any specific action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to high-risk individuals, like the Petitioners, currently being held in civil detention." Moreover, Judge Nathan concluded that plaintiffs "have demonstrated a likelihood of success on their claim that the Due Process Clause entitles Petitioners to an expeditious bond hearing that considers the individualized risk that COVID-19 poses to their health." Lastly, Judge Nathan held that, because this was a "rare case of extraordinary circumstances," "release is therefore necessary to 'make the habeas remedy effective.'"

The same day, after conferring with the parties, Judge Nathan issued an order clarifying the conditions for the release of four of the plaintiffs. Two of the plaintiffs were to be released on conditions the parties agreed to: "on their own recognizance and enrolled in the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP) subject to the following conditions: that they not violate any laws or ordinances; that they surrender for removal, if so ordered, and that they keep ICE and EOIR advised of any changes in address." As to the two remaining plaintiffs to be released, Judge Nathan ordered that they be released subject to the same agreed-upon conditions, as well as electronic monitoring. According to Judge Nathan's order, the four plaintiffs were released from immigration detention at 5 PM on March 27.

Following the court's grant of TRO, the plaintiffs filed a first amended petition for habeas relief on April 30, in which they joined four new plaintiffs. Defendants subsequently filed a letter to the court requesting that the court resolve threshold questions of severance and any related issues of joinder and amendment. After expedited briefing on these issues, Judge Nathan issued an order on April 1 prohibiting the joinder of the four new plaintiffs. Judge Nathan stated that joinder of the new plaintiffs was inappropriate because it would create the appearance of forum shopping.

On May 13, the defendants filed an opposition to the plaintiffs' petition for writ of habeas corpus. Defendants filed several exhibits and declarations in support of their opposition. However, because the Clearinghouse does not have access to the opposition or supplemental filings, the arguments raised by defendants are not available.

More coming soon.

Aaron Gurley - 03/28/2020


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Suspension Clause
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Bail/Bond
Conditions of confinement
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Habeas Corpus
Placement in detention facilities
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Immigration/Border
Detention - conditions
Detention - criteria
Detention - procedures
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Release Granted
COVID-19 Release Requested
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651
Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Defendant(s) Director of the Hudson County Jail
Sheriff of Orange County
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Warden of the Bergen County Jail
Warden of the Essex County Jail
Plaintiff Description Seven persons held in civil immigration detention centers in the New York City area who face a significant risk of severe illness or death if they catch COVID-19
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Bronx Defenders
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 03/20/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Coronel et al v. Decker et al
The Bronx Defenders
Date: Mar. 20, 2020
By: The Bronx Defenders
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:20-cv-02472 (S.D.N.Y.)
IM-NY-0074-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Complaint for Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-NY-0074-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/20/2020
Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 17]
IM-NY-0074-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/23/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [ECF# 26] (S.D.N.Y.)
IM-NY-0074-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Endorsement RE: Coronel et al. v. Decker, No. 20-cv-2472 (AJN) [ECF# 28] (S.D.N.Y.)
IM-NY-0074-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 35] (S.D.N.Y.)
IM-NY-0074-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Nathan, Alison J. Court not on record show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0003 | IM-NY-0074-0004 | IM-NY-0074-0005
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dona, Julie Ann (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0001 | IM-NY-0074-0002 | IM-NY-0074-0004 | IM-NY-0074-9000
Holder, Adriene L. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0001 | IM-NY-0074-0002
Levine, Zoe (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0001 | IM-NY-0074-0002 | IM-NY-0074-0004 | IM-NY-0074-9000
Mathur, Suchita (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0001 | IM-NY-0074-0002 | IM-NY-0074-0004 | IM-NY-0074-9000
Padmanabhan, Aadhithi (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0001 | IM-NY-0074-0002 | IM-NY-0074-0004 | IM-NY-0074-9000
Sabel, Janet E. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0001 | IM-NY-0074-0002
Shafiqullah, Hasan (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0001 | IM-NY-0074-0002
Toson, Lilia (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0001 | IM-NY-0074-0002 | IM-NY-0074-0004 | IM-NY-0074-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Berman, Geoffrey S. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0004
Byars, Michael James (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-9000
Kochevar, Steven J. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0074-0004 | IM-NY-0074-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -