Judge Orders Release Of Vulnerable Migrants From Mexican Detention Centers

Published: Monday, April 20, 2020 - 5:32pm
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The Mexican government must immediately release vulnerable migrants from detention and grant them temporary legal status to ensure access to health care and other services, a federal judge in Mexico City ruled Friday.

“It’s a historic decision," said Ana Saiz, director of the nonprofit Sin Fronteras IAP — one of more than 40 organizations that filed a lawsuit arguing that migrants were not receiving adequate protection during the pandemic.

In addition to releasing elderly migrants, children and families and those with health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, the provisional ruling also requires authorities to share more information about migrants who remain detained in Mexico.

"It's very important because we usually usually don't have access to information," Saiz said. "So the judge is asking for detailed information to know how many people are in detention centers and, basically, their profiles — if they have any disabilities or if they are minors."

The judge is also requiring authorities to amp up health and sanitation measures inside facilities, including ensuring access to water, health information and contact with relatives.

Concern over a cramped conditions and a lack of access to health care and personal hygiene has led to several protests inside migration facilities in recent weeks, including at a detention center in the Sonoran capital Hermosillo on April 2. And in southern Mexico, a Guatamalan asylum seeker died in a fire during a protest insidean immigration detention facility in Tenosique on March 31.

As of Monday afternoon, the National Migration Institute had not responded to the judge's provisional ruling. But Saiz said it is unlikely to provide an appeal that would appease the judge.

"We have enough grounds to think that the decision should be accepted by the authority," she said. "So we are anxious to know how it is going to comply with this order."

She added that the groups who are calling for migrants' release are also committed to helping immigration authorities release migrants in a way that provides them with access to health care, shelter and safety.

"We are convinced that if we leave migrants and refugees outside of health decisions, it will pose a risk on the safety of everyone in the country," she said. "So it's in our best interest that the authority complies with the judge's order."

Migrant advocates in the U.S. have also been pushing for the release of migrants and asylum seekers in U.S. detention facilities, where at least 15 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

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