LOS ANGELES - Calling migrant detention facilities "hotbeds of contagion," a Los Angeles federal judge has ordered the government to show its efforts to release thousands of immigrant children at risk of contracting the coronavirus in ICE holding centers in California and elsewhere, according to court papers obtained Monday.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee wrote in the filing that the government
must provide, by the end of next week, data on all minors not released by then, including names, dates of apprehension, places of detention, and why they have not been released in California and seven other states in a timely manner.
A representative for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency is reviewing the judge's order, made late Saturday, but cannot comment on pending litigation.
The court's temporary injunction was issued at the request of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a Los Angeles-based human rights organization that in 1997 reached a nationwide settlement with the federal government addressing the conditions of detention and right to release of children in immigration custody.
The settlement, commonly known as the Flores agreement, guarantees all detained immigrant children the right to safe and sanitary conditions of detention, and to prompt release to sponsors living in the United States.
President Donald Trump has denounced the settlement, and is now trying to reverse it on appeal after Gee denied a government request last year to terminate the agreement based on new regulations the administration issued dealing with the detention of children.
"We are relieved for thousands of detained children that the court has intervened to keep these children as safe as possible during this COVID-19 health crisis,'' said Peter Schey, president of the human rights organization.
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Gee's order "may save children's lives'' and could "help slow down the spread of the virus among detained children and staff and surrounding communities where children and families are detained,'' he said.
Schey said that "instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to unnecessarily detain thousands of children who pose no danger of any sort to the country, the Trump administration should use those funds to get COVID-19 testing kits and protective gear out to local communities.''