A second ICE detainee being held in the McHenry County Jail has been released after a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU due to COVID-19 concerns.
The lawsuit was filed on April 17 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 was released on Wednesday following a ruling on Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer.
Pallmeyer said that Taufiq Butt was likely to succeed in arguing that conditions in the McHenry County Jail placed him at risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, according to the ACLU.
The McHenry County Jail receives $95 a day for each ICE detainee they house.
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.
“Both of the people we represented in this lawsuit have been released. But detention facilities remain vectors of coronavirus, and many other medically vulnerable people remain in Illinois’ ICE facilities fearing they will be the next victim of COVID,” Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement.
“We will continue to work for the release of others who face these terrifying conditions,” she added.
The ACLU said that Dembele, who was the first inmate to be released in the lawsuit, 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, Taufiq Buttwith, has similar medical conditions and was awaiting deportation before he was released on Wednesday.