A U.S. federal judge has ordered the release of migrant children who have been detained at the Mexico border, after ruling Friday the Trump administration was again violating an agreement to release them within 20 days.
The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law has been challenging the Trump administration’s child detention policies on behalf of plaintiffs who contend the coronavirus pandemic has triggered more delays in the release of the migrant children.
The center’s argument against the administration is being made under a 1997 pact known as the Flores agreement, which generally requires minors who have been detained in non-licensed facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border to be released within the 20-day period.
The plaintiffs maintain the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) stopped releasing children to their parents or other guardians in California, Washington State and New York to avoid getting involved with the states’ lockdown rules, which have been imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
They also allege the administration stopped the release process for some children because their parents or guardians could not easily arrange to be fingerprinted as required for background checks.
The plaintiffs argued the delays could expose the children to the coronavirus if it spreads in detention facilities. They cited a non-profit detention center in Texas where a 14-day quarantine order was put into effect.
In addition, the plaintiffs accused the government of releasing a teenager who turned 18 while in “quarantine” to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) instead of sending him to family placement program where arrangements had been made to accommodate him.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, who oversees the case, did not agree with all of the allegations but once more ordered the administration to “expedite the release of the children.”
Gee concluded that “ORR and ICE shall continue to make every effort to promptly and safely release” the detained children who are represented by the plaintiffs.
In a separate ruling last month, Gee described the immigration detention centers as “hotbeds of contagion.”
Source: VOA News