Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a federal judge has ordered ICE to release all detained immigrant children by July 17. Judge Dolly Gee of California issued the order on Friday, describing the ICE-operated facilities across the U.S. as "on fire," NPR reports. She added that the Trump administration hasn't even provided basic health protections for the families detained during the pandemic, and as a result, "there is no more time for half measures."
"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," wrote Judge Dolly Gee. The order will impact all three ICE-operated family detention facilities across the U.S., with the two in Texas and the third in Pennsylvania. Shelters housing unaccompanied minors will also be impacted.
Last month, it was reported that 11 people at a family detention center in Karnes City, Texas were diagnosed with the coronavirus. Meanwhile, at the Dilley facility 90 miles away, four employees tested positive for the virus. Results regarding the residents at the facility are still pending. One report from a physician who inspected the ICE family detention centers said that the infection rates in Texas means there is "even more cause for concern" among detainees.
Gee's order does not directly apply to any parents who were detained with their children, however, and as a result, ICE can decline to release a child if there isn't a suitable sponsor available. Under the Flores agreement, a child's parent waives rights.
Earlier this month, immigration advocacy groups made it clear how poor the conditions were in the detention centers. According to a report, employees at the centers have been using a powerful disinfectant that has allegedly caused serious side effects among detainees. As of June 3, ICE reported there were 818 confirmed cases of coronavirus among detainees.