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Federal judge orders release of migrant children being held in Texas & Pennsylvania

migrant child detained
A migrant child being held at the south Texas border is seen in this file photo.

HOUSTON, Texas — A federal judge late Friday ordered the release of children held with their parents in U.S. immigration jails and denounced the Trump administration’s prolonged detention of families during the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s order applies to children held for more than 20 days at three family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some have been detained since last year.

Citing the recent spread of the virus in two of the three facilities, Gee set a deadline of July 17 for children to either be released with their parents or sent to family sponsors.

The family detention centers “are ‘on fire’ and there is no more time for half measures," she wrote.

In May, ICE said it was detaining 184 children at the three detention centers, which are separate from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services facilities for unaccompanied children that were holding around 1,000 children in early June. The numbers in both systems have fallen significantly since earlier in the Trump administration because the U.S. is expelling most people trying to cross the border or requiring them to wait for their immigration cases in Mexico.

Gee oversees a long-running court settlement governing the U.S. government’s treatment of immigrant children known as the Flores agreement. Her order does not directly apply to the parents detained with their children.

But most parents last month refused to designate a sponsor when ICE officials unexpectedly asked them who could take their children if the adults remained detained, according to lawyers for the families. The agency said then it was conducting a “routine parole review consistent with the law” and Gee’s previous orders.

Advocates contend that ICE should release all families from detention especially as the coronavirus has spread rapidly through immigration detention. In court filings revealed Thursday, ICE said 11 children and parents have tested positive for Covid-19 at the family detention center in Karnes City, Texas.

At the detention center in nearby Dilley, at least three parents and children — including a child who turned 2 this week — were placed in isolation after two private contractors and an ICE official tested positive for the virus.

Amy Maldonado, an attorney who works with detained families, said Gee “clearly recognized that the government is not willing to protect the health and safety of the children, which is their obligation.”

“They need to make the sensible choice and release the parents to care for their children,” she said of the government.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

More than 2,500 people in ICE custody have tested positive for Covid-19. The agency says it has released at least 900 people considered to have heightened medical risk and reduced the populations at its three family detention centers. But in court filings last month, ICE said it considered most of the people in family detention to be flight risks because they had pending deportation orders or cases under review.

News / Politics / Texas / Top Stories / US & World

Associated Press



  1. This is what Nazis do. They punish people because of their race. Himmler did this in Austria, Poland, Czechoslavakia, Germany, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus, and Russia. They were white supremacist who hated Jews, Gypsies, people of African decent, and homosexuals. They separated children from their parents at the railheads at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Sobibor, Buchenwald, and Dachau. As the orange buffoon would describe them…”some very fine people”.

    1. You are an idiot, not even close to the same thing. The jews were citizens these are people from another country. You didn’t learn much in school I see

    2. Here’s a thought, why dont you pay for their well being instead of taxpayers picking up the tab so that you can feel better. Better yet, if we send them back to their own country it’s no longer a problem

  2. ICE considers some of their parents as “flight risks”. You never know when they might break and run and get jobs and provide for their families and then, horror of horrors, become decent productive citizens.

  3. See the way it works, by then some of these children will be working and paying into the taxation system so they can feed you thru a tube and wipe you clean 2-3x per day. Capishe?

  4. It’s Always the same story with these WASPS. In hard times always Blame the immigrants, the disadvantaged and people of Color for what’s wrong with America. Americans should know by now that these beliefs belong to Nazi ideologue. But people like Trump and his voters don’t care. Come November America will right it’s Course and elect a Real President who will welcome and include all decent, hardworking people, who want to contribute to American society. GO BIDEN2020! #DUMPNAZITRUMP!

    1. Its not going to be enough to get the orange buffoon out of the White House and all the scum like McConnell out of the Senate. Our nation must guarantee that filth like this never again gains any political office in this nation. If the SDNY can get the orange buffoon in prison where he belongs, it will be up to the rest of all decent Americans to see that this scum is punished and can never again hold elective office.

      1. SDNY? That’s a Democrat talking point. How much you getting paid moron? BTW – Wishful delusional thinking. You do know you are preaching to the choir when you post this TDS induced garbage.

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