This Friday, Judge Dolly M. Gee, a federal judge of the Central District of California, ordered the release of migrant children from family detention centers, primarily citing the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic as her reasoning.

This order demands that the children must be released by July 17. The ruling applies to children who have been “held for more than 20 days in the detention centers… two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania,” according to the New York Times. This order comes after plaintiffs in a long-running case “reported that some of them had tested positive for the virus,” according to Boston, and is part of an ongoing effort to release particularly vulnerable immigrants from confined facilities. Over 2,500 immigrants have tested positive for COVID-19 in ICE detention centers. 

In her order, Judge Gee stated that “family residential centers are on fire and there is no more time for half measures,” criticizing the Trump administration for its lack of compliance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 124 children living in facilities, she wrote, must be released with “all deliberate speed” with their parents. 

The 1997 Flores settlement agreement, which sets limits on “the length of time and conditions under which children can be incarcerated in immigration detention,” is overseen by Judge Gee. Judge Gee has blocked two years of efforts from the Trump administration’s attempts at terminating this settlement. 

This is the first time that a court has set a deadline for the release of minors. 

Sources: New York Times 06/29/20; Human Rights First 06/29/20, Boston 06/29/20, CNN 06/29/20

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