The verdict is part of an ongoing effort to release detained immigrants who are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus given the limited settings in the facilities and the possibility of spread.
With her order, Judge Dolly M. Gee of the U.S. District Court for Central California called for the prompt removal of migrant children who are in one of three family detention centers run by immigration and customs enforcement, located in Texas and Pennsylvania.
Children must be released with parents or “available suitable sponsors or other available non-existent settings without COVID” with the consent of a parent or guardian, Judge Gee said.
As of June 8, 124 children have been in ICE custody, the verdict said. The decision, which calls for the release of the children by July 17, applies to children who have stayed in those facilities for more than 20 days.
Efforts, Gee wrote, must be invested “intentionally at speed.”
In total, about 8,858 ICE detainees tested were tested for coronavirus, and 751 tested positive, according to agency statistics as of Friday afternoon.
CNN contacted ICE for comment.
Proponents of immigration attorneys shared anecdotes about detained families upset about their encounters with ICE, describing meetings of parents and ICE officials regarding whether their children would remain in parental custody or be handed over to a sponsor in the United States.
Families locked up in all three detention facilities – Berks in Pennsylvania, South Texas (Dilley) and Carnes County Family Housing Centers in Texas – shared similar stories. Children in institutions between the ages of 1 and 17, claim lawyers and advocates who provide legal aid.
“The administration must stop using this public health crisis as a means of enforcing illegal and inhumane immigration policies. In these extraordinary times, human suffering should not be compensated by closing families or instilling fear in the hearts of migrant parents,” read the letter, addressed to the acting minister. for Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Matt Albence.
ICE denied setting up a binary choice or separating parents from their children “in accordance with ‘binary choice.”
This story has been updated with additional information.