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28 June 2020 – United States

Asylum Seekers Leaving a Cafeteria at the ICE South Texas Family Residential Centre in Dilley, Texas, (Eric Gay, Associated Press,
Asylum Seekers Leaving a Cafeteria at the ICE South Texas Family Residential Centre in Dilley, Texas, (Eric Gay, Associated Press, "Judge Orders U.S. to Release Migrant Children from Family Detention Centers," Reuters, 26 June 2020,

On 26 June, a federal Judge ordered the release of children held with their parents in immigration detention centres. District Judge Dolly M. Gee’s order applies to children held for more than 20 days at three family detention centres in Texas and Pennsylvania operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Due to the recent spread of Covid-19 in two of the three facilities, the judge set a deadline of 17 July for children to either be released with their parents or sent to family sponsors. However, according to the lawyers for the families, last month, most parents refused to designate a sponsor when asked who could take their children if they remained detained.

According to the judge’s order, 124 children are being detained in ICE’s centres, which are separate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services facilities for unaccompanied children that were holding some 1,000 children at the start of June. Numbers have reportedly fallen due to the U.S. expelling most people trying to cross the border or requiring them to wait for their immigration cases in Mexico.

In court filings, ICE said that 11 children and parents had tested positive for the disease at the family detention centre in Karnes City, Texas. Also, at the detention centre near Dilley, at least three parents and children, including a two year old child, were placed in isolation after two private contractors and an ICE official tested positive for the virus.

In total, more than 2,500 people held in ICE custody have tested positive for Covid-19. ICE said it has released at least 900 people considered to be particularly at risk and reduced the populations at its three family detention centres. Yet, in court filings last month, ICE explained it considered most of the people in family detention to be flight risks as they had pending deportation orders or cases under review.

In April, Reuters reported that U.S. immigration officials had deported some 400 migrant children intercepted at the U.S.-Mexico border from around 24 March to 7 April. The Trump administration implemented new border rules in late 21 March, allowing officials to quickly remove people without standard immigration proceedings. Since the new procedures took effect on 21 March, approximately 7,000 people have been expelled to Mexico, of whom 377 were minors. 120 of the minors, who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border without a parent or legal guardian, were sent to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Prior to the new rules, unaccompanied minors caught at the border were placed in shelters run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.