New Court Order Forces Trump Government to Release Immigrant Children in Detention Centers
Judge Dolly M. Gee's decision upholds the rules of the Flores Agreement and highlights the urgency of releasing the children due to the increased risk of COVID-19.
The immigrant community has won an important victory after Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Central District Court of California ruled last Friday that immigration agencies must release immigrant children who have spent more than 20 days in detention centers
Citing the severity of the Coronavirus pandemic, Gee ordered the release of children detained at three centers across the country, two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania, who have been held longer than the law requires.
As of June 8, 124 children were living in those detention centers and under conditions that appear to ignore the Centers for Disease Control's recommendations to control the spread of the pandemic, the New York Times reported.
Last month alone, eleven children and parents tested positive for coronavirus at a family detention center in Karnes City, Texas, and around the country, there are about 2,500 immigrants detained by ICE who have tested positive for the virus.
“The family residential centers are on fire and there is no more time for half measures,” wrote Judge Gee, ordering ICE to release the children with "all deliberate speed" either to their parents or to appropriate guardians.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement "is currently reviewing the most recent order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California yesterday evening" in which the judge mandated the federal government release migrant children by mid-July, an ICE spokesperson told CNN.
Last month, House Democratic lawmakers urged the Trump administration in a letter to explain reported incidents of ICE asking migrant families in detention to choose between staying with their children or releasing them, the media explained.
"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," read the letter, directed to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matt Albence.
Judge Gee's decision is not only a victory for immigrant detainees and their advocates, but also for those who have been fighting the government's decision to end the so-called Flores agreement, a federal ruling that sets the maximum time an immigrant child can be detained at 20 days, and which was in effect from 1997 until 2019 when the Trump administration decided to rescind it on the promise to treat all children in custody "with dignity.”
However, it was Judge Gee herself who denied the administration's request to extend family detention in 2018, and she is once again the one who has set limits on government abuse and neglect when it comes to dealing with immigrants.