Judge Rules Children Must be Released from U.S Family Detention Centers Due to the Coronavirus

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Recently, Dolly M. Gee, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that all migrant children held in the three family detention centers throughout the nation are to be released by July 17. This decision was made due to many in the centers testing positive for COVID-19 and disapproval of the Trump administration’s actions in regards to preventing the spread of the virus throughout these detention centers. Unlike other orders made by judges, Judge Gee’s order has a set date when all children must be released.

The three family detention centers in the nation would include two in Texas, and one in Pennsylvania. The only condition to this order would be that the children must have spent at least 20 days in the detention centers. The children may be released to a parent or to a family appointed by the parents that resides in the United States. If the parent decides to not be separated from their children, ICE can remove families from these detention centers and allow them to continue their immigration proceedings in the United States.

In total there are 124 children living in these facilities as of June 8th, according to Judge Gee’s ruling. Gee believes this order was necessary, as “…renewed and more vigorous efforts must be undertaken to transfer (children) residing at the FRCs to non-congregate settings…” .The lack of social distancing and many not wearing masks has brought concern to Gee who oversees the government’s compliance with the Flores Settlement Agreement. The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement sets national standards for the release and treatment of migrant children in these facilities. Gee saw how the conditions in these Family Residential Centers were a threat to the children’s health, and thus decided to intervene and add a policy to protect the health of the migrant children. A spokesperson from ICE told the media that the agency is still reviewing Gee’s order.