A court agreed to grant the Trump administration a 10-day extension a day before it was required to release migrant children currently held at “family residential centers.”
As the Friday deadline for the government to release migrant children approached, the government, in a four-page document filed Wednesday, requested a 10-day extension to execute an order handed down by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee on June 26.
That order, signed June 26 by Gee, demanded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to release migrant children held at three U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails — two in Texas, and one in Pennsylvania.
The jails — the Karnes County Family Residential Center, the South Texas Dilley Family Residential Center and the Berk’s facility — are “on fire” with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the order.
Gee based her June 26 order on the already-in-place Flores Settlement Agreement, which stipulates among other things how long the government can detain immigrants — that being no more than 20 days maximum detention for children in custody.
The settlement was reached between the federal government and child welfare and legal advocates who had demanded government officials address child welfare violations within the immigration detention system that had gone unaddressed for years.
The government was to release all children who had been in custody for more than 20 days but not their guardians or parents that are being held with them.
In a separate but similar lawsuit about the unhealthy conditions at the ICE facilities, this one by attorneys representing the parents for the migrant children, a judge in Washington has yet to rule on whether or not to release all parents, or just those who have already shown they were at risk of the virus.
It remains unclear if the judge would make his ruling before the Friday deadline.
The new filing on Wednesday asks for Gee to give the government until at least July 27 to comply with her order.
The filing states in part, that the government continues to work to comply with the order but that it has not yet finalized the proper documentation to present to the parents and guardians of the migrant children as it pertains to the Flores agreement and the sponsor families the children will be placed with.
Attorneys for the children, and those for the parents, argue that not releasing them together is another form of family separations, which prompted litigation to halt that practice back in the summer of 2018. That’s when children and their parents who were housed at ICE detention facilities were being separated, most times without the knowledge of the parent or guardian.
The government additionally stated in the filing that it would provide the court documents for review and approval by July 20.
In early July, DHS said it had “expanded” testing for COVID-19 at its facilities, and was housing nearly 350 people between the three facilities.
Based on ICE’s own data, three detainees have died and another nearly 3,500 have tested positive across the agency’s roughly 70 facilities around the country since February, when the agency began tracking COVID-19.
As of Thursday at the Karnes family center reported a total of 40 cases since February, of which 29 are currently under isolation or being monitored.
Data for the the Dilley and the Berks facilities was not available on the agency’s website.
This story has been updated to clarify the total number of cases reported in the facilities.