Amid the surge of COVID-19 cases, a judge has determined that migrant children detained in family detention centers should be released.
Citing the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Central District Court of California ordered that detained migrant children must be released by July 17.
Plaintiffs made the compelling argument in a long-standing case that reported an increase in positive cases within detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania, where about 124 children have been held for more than 20 days.
In her order, Judge Gee criticized the Trump Administration for its “spotty compliance” with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had recommended social distancing, use of masks, and early medical intervention for those with symptoms.
“The family residential centers are on fire and there is no more time for half measures,” she wrote.
The judge also added that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should work to release the children with “all deliberate speed,” setting for the first time a fixed deadline for releasing the children, either with their parents or with “available suitable sponsors or other available COVID-free non-congregate settings,” according to the New York Times.
However, the situation is much more complicated at the national level.
As of Friday afternoon, about 8,858 detainees in ICE custody had been tested for COVID-19, 751 of who tested positive, CNN said.
Immigration advocates and lawyers have pushed for the release of detainees during the pandemic, especially minors, citing the level of abuse they are subjected to due to government negligence.
Now, with the possibility of the children being released, organizations like Families Belong Together fear that this is another opportunity for the government to separate families.
Paola Luisi, director of the coalition, recalled that six children and dozens of adults have died in ICE custody, and that the way agencies play with the lives of detainees is “sadistic.”
“The federal judge has ordered the release of the children in these prisons no later than July 17, but technically she only has jurisdiction over the children, not their parents or caretakers. If we don’t all come together to demand the release of the children and their families together, ICE could use this court order to try to snatch the children from their parents’ arms again, just as they did just a couple of weeks ago,” she stated.
“The current crisis asks us to appeal to our humanity and dignity as a nation, not to despicable cruelty. We demand that not a single child be torn from the arms of his parents, that all families be released together immediately, and that these family prisons be closed once and for all.”