Associated Press: MIAMI AP — A federal judge ordered authorities to release hundreds of immigrants from three Florida detention centers to prevent a wider spread of the coronavirus and protect detainees with underlying conditions.

US District Court Judge Marcia Cooke issued an order late Thursday for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin the steps to bring down the number of detainees from 1,400 to about 350 within two weeks.

The Florida order is the latest issued by a federal judge seeking the release of immigrants, following others in states such as California and Louisiana as coronavirus infections among detainees have risen to 490 with 1,030 tested.

But other lawsuits had centred on the elderly and those at high-risk and had not resulted in ordering such a dramatic release.

In Miami, seven detainees at the Krome Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19.

And court filings state at least eight staff members have been infected at the same facility.

The judge said she found violations of the Fifth and Eight Amendments that protect due process and against unusual punishment as conditions worsen each day at Krome and authorities have failed at practising social distancing.

“These failures have placed petitioners at a heightened risk of not only contracting COVID-19, but also succumbing to the fatal effects of the virus as some of the petitioners have serious underlying medical illness,” Cooke wrote in the document.

“Such failures amount to cruel and unusual punishment because they are exemplary of deliberate indifference.”

Cooke ordered ICE to submit a report Sunday with the steps to release detainees.

  • Top Feature Photo: Dr Franklyn Rocha Cabrero (left) and Dr Claudia Alvarez (centre) and others protest conditions that detainees being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement face outside of the Broward Transitional Center, during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, May 1, 2020, in Pompano Beach, Florida – AP Photo/ by Lynne Sladky