As health concerns rise amidst the pandemic, so have the infection rates in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. There are currently approximately 2,500 confirmed infections among immigrant detainees across the country.
There are three ICE-run family detention centers in the U.S. – two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania. The spread of the virus through these facilities in recent weeks has become alarming. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee criticized the current administration for its “half measures” towards virus prevention in immigrant detention centers. Judge Gee issued an order to protect detained children from exposure.
According to the court order, children detained in any of the three family detention centers for more than 20 days must be released by July 17. This is the first time that there has been a court order with a firm deadline connected to the release of detainees at such centers. Previous orders – which have included wording such as “prompt release” – have resulted in considerable delays.
As of June 8, there were 124 children in these three facilities who qualified for release. The order states that these children must either be released with their parents or into the hands of suitable guardians in the U.S. – with their parents’ permission.
While this requirement offers hope that parents will receive the appropriate opportunities to remain together with their children, this is not a guarantee. In the past, we have seen tragic cases of detained parents who were coaxed into signing documents they did not understand – thereby inadvertently consenting to being deported without their children.
During this time of unprecedented health crisis, it is more important than ever that we come together as a global community and treat each fellow human with dignity and kindness. Hopefully this new measure is one such step in the right direction.