A federal judge in California denied the Trump administration’s attempt to stop or pause an order requiring the release of children in federal immigration custody which had been ordered for Monday.
In a Saturday ruling, Judge Dolly Gee appeared to make the upcoming deadline moot by saying that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t have to release children if the three ways outlined in her previous order can’t be met. But Gee also underscored in her order that ICE still has a duty to release children in a timely manner.
The three ways Gee had outlined included releasing families who are in ICE detention together, releasing children to a sponsor, or releasing families based upon a federal court order.
Shalyn Fluharty, director of Proyecto Dilley, an organization that offers legal services to families in detention, decried the move as allowing ICE to decide whether to continue keeping children detained.
“The bottom line for me is that kids are detained indefinitely and they have no way out unless ICE agrees to do it or families agree to be separated,” Fluharty said.
Families are detained in three facilities run by ICE – Berks in Pennsylvania, South Texas (Dilley) and Karnes County in Texas. Children at the facilities range from ages 1 to 17, according to lawyers and advocates who provide legal assistance.
Gee – who oversees implementation of the Flores Agreement, which governs care of children in custody – said in June that given “non-compliance or spotty compliance with masking and social distancing rules,” it was imperative to transfer children out of the facilities.
There are 969 detainees in ICE custody with positive coronavirus cases who are under isolation or monitoring as of July 23, according to ICE. Of those, there are 25 confirmed cases in Karnes and one in Dilley, two of the family detention centers.
Overall, there have been more than 3,700 confirmed cases in custody.
CNN’s Geneva Sands contributed to this report.