Many pro bono lawyers have spent countless hours fighting against the unimaginable cruelties continuing to take place along our southern border. Those lawyers are celebrating today after Federal Judge Dolly M. Gee for the U.S. District Court in the Central District of Columbia ruled that migrant children — who have often been separated from their parents indefinitely — must be released immediately due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus in those detention centers.
On June 8, 2020, ICE had 124 migrant children detained. They now have until July 17 to set them free. Of the 8,858 detainees at these centers, at least 751 are confirmed to have caught coronavirus.
Descriptions of the conditions inside these detention centers have been horrific. A letter penned by lawyers and organizations providing free legal aid said, “The Administration must stop using this public health crisis as a means for implementing unlawful and inhumane immigration policies. In these extraordinary times, human suffering need not be compounded by locking up families or instilling fear in the hearts of migrant parents.”
The letter was addressed to Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf alongside Matt Albence, the acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has alerted authorities that the legal order is current under review.
Gee wrote, “Although progress has been made, the Court is not surprised that [COVID-19] has arrived at both the [Family Residential Centers] and [Office of Refugee Resettlement] facilities, as health professionals have warned all along.”
One lawyer who was representing a class action lawsuit related to the detention of these families, Holly Cooper, said, “In order to do it in a humane way, they have to release the child with a parent…ICE makes a real horrible guardian of children … and so far ICE has opted to keep children detained … during a global pandemic.”