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Judge: Centers Holding Immigrant Kids Are 'On Fire'

Order mandates that children held in 3 Texas, Pa. facilities be released by July 17 due to pandemic
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 27, 2020 5:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – A federal judge on Friday ordered the release of children held with their parents in US immigration jails and denounced the Trump administration's prolonged detention of families during the pandemic. US District Judge Dolly Gee's order applies to kids held for more than 20 days at three family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania operated by ICE. Some have been detained since last year, per the AP. Citing the recent spread of the virus in two of the three facilities, Gee set a deadline of July 17 for children to either be released with their parents or sent to family sponsors. The family detention centers "are 'on fire' and there is no more time for half measures," she wrote. Gee's order said ICE was detaining 124 children in its centers, which are separate from Department of Health and Human Services facilities for unaccompanied minors that were holding around 1,000 children in early June.

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More than 2,500 people in ICE custody have tested positive for COVID-19. Advocates contend that ICE should release all families from detention, especially as the virus has spread rapidly through detention centers. In court filings revealed Thursday, ICE said 11 children and parents have tested positive for COVID-19 at the detention center in Karnes City, Texas. At a detention center in nearby Dilley, at least three parents and children were placed in isolation after two private contractors and an ICE official tested positive for the virus. Gee oversees a long-running court settlement governing the US government’s treatment of immigrant children known as the Flores agreement. Her order doesn't directly apply to the parents detained with their children. Gee's order says ICE can decline to release a child if there isn't a suitable sponsor, the child’s parent waives rights under the Flores agreement, or if there's a "prior unexplained failure to appear at a scheduled hearing."

(Read more immigrants stories.)

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