Judge Dolly M. Gee ruled on Friday that the U.S. government must release migrant children held in the country’s three family detention centers by mid-July due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As of June 8, there were 124 children in ICE custody, according to the ruling. The ruling, which calls for children to be let go by July 17, applies to children who have resided at the three facilities for more than 20 days.
Gee, who is a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, called for the swift removal of migrant children who are at one of the three family detention centers, which are run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and located in Texas and Pennsylvania.
“The family residential centers are on fire and there is no more time for half-measures,” Gee wrote.
As of Friday afternoon, there are approximately 8,858 detainees in ICE custody who have been tested for coronavirus and there are 751 confirmed cases in custody, according to the agency’s statistics.
The children must be released with their parents or to “available suitable sponsors or other available COVID-free non-congregate settings” with the consent of their parents or guardians, Gee said.
Tsuru for Solidarity issued the following statement praising the ruling:
“As Japanese American survivors and descendants of U.S. concentration camps, we know that imprisoning parents and children causes deep harm and separating children from parents will be an added devastating trauma that is passed on from generation to generation.
“We stand in solidarity with the families in ICE detention, and demand that our government close down the family detention centers altogether rather than use this as yet another excuse for indefinite detention and family separation. And we remind the governors of the states where these family detention centers are located — particularly Gov. [Tom] Wolf of Pennsylvania, who has the power to shut down the Berks family detention center but has failed to exercise that power — that they have a moral obligation to act in the face of ICE’s ongoing cruelty and inhumanity.”