With an increase in coronavirus cases at immigration jails, a federal judge on Friday that oversees litigation surrounding protections for undocumented minors in U.S. custody ordered ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to release the children along with their parents or legal guardians.
U.S. Federal Judge Dolly Gee of the federal court in Los Angeles order applies to the children held for more than 20 days at three detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania operated by ICE. Gee who overlooks the government’s compliance with the Flores Settlement Agreement, which governs the care of minors in the U.S. immigration custody, cited the first coronavirus cases among the migrant families ICE holds at its three Family Residential Centers or FRCs.
Judge Gee has given ICE until July 17th to release all minors that are in the agency’s custody.
Advocates insisted that ICE should release all families from detention especially as the coronavirus has spread rapidly through immigration detention. In recent court filings on Thursday, ICE said 11 children and parents have tested positive for COVID-19 at the family detention center in Karnes City, Texas.
More than 2,500 people in ICE custody have tested positive for COVID-19. The agency says it has released at least 900 people considering the medical risk of more people getting the virus. It has also reduced the populations at its three family detention centers. Last month in court filings, ICE said it considered most of the people to be flight risks because they have pending deportation orders or cases under review.
“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 according to CBS news.