An ICE detainee being held in the McHenry County Jail has been released after a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU requesting him be released due to COVID-19 concerns.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in federal district court in Chicago on behalf of Souleymane Dembele and Muhammad Taufiq Butt. The suit was seeking immediate, temporary release of the two detainees from the jail.
Dembele was released from the jail shortly after the lawsuit was filed, according to the ACLU. Taufiq Butt remains detained.
The defendants named in the suit were McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim, McHenry County Jail Chief of Corrections Daniel Sitkie, U.S. ICE Chicago Field Office Director Robert Guadian, U.S. ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf.
“This is a truly great day for Mr. Dembele, his wife and his children – who lived each day in fear that his life was at risk in the McHenry County Jail,” said Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois.
“On the day we filed this suit for Mr. Dembele, a senior ICE official told members of Congress the agency did not plan to release any more immigrants. ICE clearly is not doing enough to ensure that immigration detention does not amount to a death sentence for vulnerable people,” Choudhury said.
The ACLU said that Dembele has lived and raised a family in the United States for almost a decade. He was fearing for his life while detained on civil immigration charges because he suffers from pre-existing medical conditions that put him at risk of serious coronavirus complications, the ACLU said.
The ACLU said that Dembele was concerned about the lack of adequate sanitation, failure to screen people entering the facility and the lack of social distancing.
“Being in this jail during the coronavirus crisis is a nightmare,” Dembele said in a statement while he was in the jail. “I have not been able to sleep or care for myself because I am constantly afraid of being exposed to the virus.”
“The conditions are not sanitary, and more than 60 people are regularly crammed into a common area, sharing tables and chairs. There is truly no social distancing,” he said.
“It also is troubling that we are not being provided with appropriate information or equipment about how to protect ourselves from infection. We are not provided masks or gloves, even though we are not able to engage in social distancing,” Dembele said. “No one should be forced to live like this.”
Dembele was awaiting disposition of his immigration case while the second plaintiff, Muhammad Taufiq Buttwith, has similar medical conditions and is awaiting deportation.