US District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled on Friday that the federal government cannot keep migrant children detained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its minutes, the court stated that while it “appreciates both ICE’s and ORR’s efforts to reduce the number of Class Members in their custody during the pandemic,” the plaintiffs challenging the ongoing custody of migrants “identified issues, mistakes, or omissions in both the ORR and ICE Juvenile Coordinators’ reports.”
The court ordered that, by July 17, ICE must release minors to available sponsors or with their guardians “with all deliberate speed” while also maintaining protocols such as social distancing, masking, and enhanced testing within detention areas.
As of June 8, there were 124 children in ICE custody, according to the ruling. The ruling, applies to children who have resided at the three facilities for more than 20 days.
As of Friday afternoon, there were around 8,858 detainees in ICE custody who have been tested for coronavirus, 751 of those tested were possitive, according to the agency’s statistics.
Amy Maldonado, an attorney who works with detained families, said Gee “clearly recognized that the government is not willing to protect the health and safety of the children, which is their obligation.”
“They need to make the sensible choice and release the parents to care for their children,” she said of the government.
ICE denied instituting a binary choice or separating any parents from their children “pursuant to ‘binary choice.'”
In a letter directed to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matt Albence, it read,
“The Administration must stop using this public health crisis as a means for implementing unlawful and inhumane immigration policies. In these extraordinary times, human suffering need not be compounded by locking up families or instilling fear in the hearts of migrant parents,”
Trump Told Mexico to Stop Migrants From Reaching the U.S. So Far, His Plan Is Working
Released just before the pandemic on Jan 28, 2020 by New York Times