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A federal judge ruled Friday that minor children being held for longer than 20 days with their parents in detention facilities must be released. The ruling affects three family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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The reason given by Judge Dolly M. Gee of the United States District Court for the Central District of California is the spread of the coronavirus in these facilities. Judge Gee set a deadline of July 17 for the release of the children, who can be released with their families or to a family sponsor. The family detention centers “are ‘on fire’ and there is no more time for half measures,” she wrote. These three family detention centers are operated by ICE and are distinct from the ones operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The judge’s ruling claims that 124 children are being detained in the family detention centers whereas the HHS facilities hold about 1,000 children, all unaccompanied. The good news is that the number of those being detained has fallen, thanks to the Trump administration’s policies of removing most people trying to cross the border and to enforcement of the Migrant Protection Protocols, a.k.a. the Remain in Mexico policy.

Judge Gee’s order pertains to the court settlement governing the Flores agreement – the U.S. government’s treatment of immigrant children. She has long declared the treatment of children in detention centers to be “deplorable” , first during the Obama presidency (she’s an Obama appointee) and now again during Trump’s administration. According to her order, there are three conditions in which ICE can refuse to release a child. Gee’s order says ICE can decline to release a child […]


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