A court in Los Angeles, California, ordered the US immigration services to release more than a hundred migrant children detained in three detention centers, due to the risk that they could be infected with the new coronavirus.
Two of the three detention centers have confirmed cases of the virus and could become major contagion epicentres, District Judge Dolly Gee said in her decision, announced Friday.
Family detention centers are “on fire and there is no time for half measures,” Gee wrote.
The 124 minors detained in those centers must be either handed over to their parents or placed in foster families with parental approval between now and July 17.
Following the 2018 launch of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy towards illegal immigration, thousands of children were separated from their parents at the border, a measure apparently designed to deter potential migrants from crossing the border into Mexico. The government then backed down.
Last week, the United States Supreme Court rejected Trump’s decision that sought to eliminate a program that protects from deportation some 700,000 people who came to the United States illegally with their parents, when they were children.
According to the television network CNN, there are more than 2,500 cases of COVID-19 in all the detention centers of the immigration services.
They ask not to separate families
After the order for the release of minors, activists and Democratic legislators demanded this Saturday that the Government also release the parents of minors who must leave the detention centers for families.
The group Raíces, which defends immigrant families, pointed out that it is not “good news” that the judge has not been able to order ICE to release the minors with their parents.
However, he made it clear that ICE has the “discretion” to release parents and children at the same time, although Raíces recalled that the “history and lack of will” of the federal agency in the past point to the contrary.
“The ball is now in the court of ICE, which means that it is actually in all of ours to free families together,” he said to encourage the community to call Congress to ask them to pressure the agency.
Alida García, vice president of FWD.us, a group created by technological leaders in favour of immigration reform, urged that representatives in Washington be called to demand that the agency release the “families before it is too late.” In his opinion, that liberation will only happen if people “make noise.”
This ruling is the result of a legal battle waged by pro-immigrant organizations in order for the Government to release all those detained in immigration centers during the pandemic.
At least 11 detainees at the Karnes City, Texas, family center and four employees at the Dilley, Texas, have tested positive for COVID-19.
Another group of activists who advocate for the rights of immigrant families, Families Belong Together, assured that it will not rest until “all children are safe.”
As highlighted by the judge’s ruling, residences for detained families “are on fire” due to COVID-19 infections and there is no “time for half measures.”
He recalled that last month ICE resumed a new “family separation” by putting parents before the difficult choice of staying indefinitely in detention with their children during the pandemic or separating families by releasing children alone and supporting parents. locked up.
The president of the Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) group, Wendy Young, said that releasing “has never been so important” and that ICE must comply “immediately” with the judge’s order and asked that the children be released with their parents so they can stay together while pursuing their protection claims in a “safe and healthy place.”
The ruling by Judge Gee, who strongly criticizes the Trump administration for its actions, in this case, affects 124 children detained in three centers: one in Pennsylvania and two in Texas.
The coronavirus has affected a large number of ICE detainees and the latest reports show that more than 2,500 people held in ICE detention centers have tested positive for COVID-19.
Requests for action by these groups will be well received by a good number of Democratic congressmen, such as Senator Kamala Harris, who urged the government to “free the children and reunite them” with their families immediately.
For the representative Verónica Escobar, it is a “harmful, traumatic” detention, so it must end as soon as possible.
Other fellow party members in the Lower House, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, pointed out the “cruelty” of the Trump government for detaining children in the middle of the pandemic in its attempt to keep them in this way for an indefinite time to try discourage immigration to the country.
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