A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to release migrant children held in government family detention centers due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The minors must be released to the care of their parents by mid-July, but only if the parents are discharged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), CNN reports.
U.S. Judge Dolly Gee of the federal district court in Los Angeles set a July 17 deadline for the release of all children who have been in ICE custody for more than 20 days, per CBS News.
In cases where the parent(s) can not be released, the children must be placed in the care of “available suitable sponsors or other available COVID-free non-congregate settings” provided their parents or guardians consent to being separated from them.
“Given the severity of the outbreak in the counties in which FRCs are located and the Independent Monitor and Dr. Wise’s observations of non-compliance or spotty compliance with masking and social distancing rules, renewed and more vigorous efforts must be undertaken to transfer (children) residing at the FRCs to non-congregate settings,” Gee wrote in her order.
She cited “unevenly implemented written protocols,” and the first coronavirus cases at three Family Residential Centers (FRCs). Several employees at one Texas facility reportedly have COVID-19, and 11 detainees have contracted the virus at a center in Kansas, NBC News reports.
“The FRCs are on ‘fire’ and there is no more time for half measures,” the judge continued.
“The court is not surprised that COVID-19 has arrived” she added.
Judge Gee oversees the government’s compliance with the Flores Settlement Agreement, which sets limits on the length of time children can be held by ICE.
The Trump administration will surely have much to say about the judge’s decision in the coming days.
Will the president release the detained migrant kids and their parents together, or maintain the cruel family separation policy?
Meanwhile, Peter Schey, the lead attorney from the Flores Settlement, praised Judge Gee’s order.
“We are grateful that the federal court has again stepped into this crisis and ordered the release of all minors to relatives in the U.S. in the next three weeks as long as the parent detained with the child wants their child released,” Schey wrote in a statement.
“Some detained parents facing deportation brought their children to this country to save them from rampant and unchecked violence in their home countries and would prefer to see them released to relatives here rather than being deported along with the parent to countries where children face harm, and sometimes death.”
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!