Judge Says Immigrants Held at Dover Jail Entitled to Hearings If At Risk for COVID-19 | New Hampshire Public Radio

Judge Says Immigrants Held at Dover Jail Entitled to Hearings If At Risk for COVID-19

May 15, 2020

An ICE detainee in a cell at the Strafford County jail in Dover in this 2017 photo.
Credit Emily Corwin for NHPR

A federal judge says immigrants detained at the Strafford County jail in Dover are entitled to bail hearings if they’re especially vulnerable to COVID-19. The ruling comes amid news that a jail employee has tested positive for the virus.

No cases are reported among inmates.

Friday’s court order affirms that people in federal immigration detention at the Dover prison can seek release on bail if they’re at high risk of coronavirus infection.

Since the New Hampshire ACLU filed this class-action suit in April, the court has held 11 bail hearings for at-risk immigrant detainees and released seven of them. Another seven were voluntarily released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

[Lawsuit Challenging N.H. Stay-at-Home Order To Get Court Hearing]

The judge on the case has not yet decided if detainees who are at a lower risk of infection should also get bail hearings. She asks a series of questions in her order and will hold another hearing on May 29 to get answers on how the jail is assessing inmates’ risk and managing the virus overall.

The court order also refers to a van driver, under contract with the Strafford County facility, who tested positive for the virus several weeks ago and had contact with some inmates but does not appear to have infected them.

On Friday, the ACLU said it had confirmed that a jail employee had tested positive for the virus – but further details were not immediately available on whether another worker is infected in addition to the van driver. The Strafford County prison superintendent did not respond to a request for comment.

About 75 undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers are detained at the prison under an ICE contract that dates to 2008. Strafford County is the only jail in Northern New England with this kind of agreement.

For weeks, dozens of people have protested in their cars outside the jail on Saturdays, calling for the release of immigrants to protect them from COVID-19.