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More than 90 immigrant children remain in ICE detention despite court order

More than 50 days ago a judge ordered the release of these families with children detained by ICE

Almost 50 days after the deadline you gave expired a federal judge to immigration authorities to release all detained minors in their custody, more of 90 children they are still locked up in detention centers with their parents, facing a “serious and dangerous” risk to your health between the COVID-19 pandemic, activists denounce.

The minors, who are in detention centers that house families in Dilley and Karnes (Texas), and in Berks (Pennsylvania), should have been released before July 17, deadline given by Judge Dolly Gee.

Releasing children into limbo

The magistrate is in charge of a case of non-compliance by the Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) to the Flores Agreement, than does not allow immigrant children to be in detention for more than 20 days and that the authorities are required to provide security.

The pandemic, which already leaves more than 140 infected in the three centers among employees, parents and minors, prompted Gee to request the release of the minors.

Shay Fluharty, an attorney for the Dilley Project, told a conference today that they have tracked a minimum of 90 children who are currently detained at the three facilities. “Twenty-two children out of that group of 90 have been detained for more than a year and 45 have been detained for more than 300 days,” he stressed.

However, the number could be higher, Andrea Meza alert, director of services to families in detention of the organization Raíces.

And it is that ICE has made it difficult to count the minors in the three family detention centers since it is limiting the access of recently arrived immigrants to lawyers and activists.

Meza explains that ICE has instituted a mandatory quarantine policy for everyone in family detention centers for the first two weeks after the arrival of foreigners, a situation that makes it difficult to speak with these immigrants, who are isolated.

“We have heard from clients that after the quarantine they said they did not know that legal service providers were available to them while they were being held in this isolation,” Meza says.

In isolation and unable to see his parents

This privacy policy has also caused family separations within the same centers, denounce the defenders of immigrants.

Raíces’ lawyer explains that, for example, in centers such as Karnes and Berks, where entire families are detained, Fathers are usually held in isolation for two weeks away from their children and mothers, and in a separate room.

“In many cases they are not allowed to see each other. At best for half an hour a day. Sometimes, only on FaceTime to talk to each other ”, denounces Meza.

ICE defies federal judge orders

Roots, Aldea, the Pueblo Justice Center, and the Dilley Project have consistently shared information about the realities of family detention with Judge Gee, pushing further pressure on the president’s government. Donald Trump.

Stephanie Alvarez-Jones, a lawyer for the Dilley Project, highlighted that since 2015 and again in 2017, 2018 and 2020, The judge has found that ICE does not comply with the period of time established in the Agreement or with the health security that must be provided to them.

“That was a problem in 2018. And it is a problem. Now we have children detained for more than a year ”, he lamented.

This situation prompted Gee to ask the activists to present to the court proposals to remedy the repeated breach of the Agreement by the Government.

The organizations have already presented a series of recommendations that include the immediate release of the minors, that they be declared in contempt of ICE, and if necessary, impose fines.

This September 4, ICE will have to appear in Gee’s court in Los Angeles to hear the magistrate’s decision.

“We are waiting with great expectation for the judge’s decision, but whatever the decision is, it pales in comparison to what the detained families are experiencing,” Alvarez-Jones warns.

“There is a real sense of despair, particularly at the time of COVID-19 that every day is another day when (a detained immigrant) could be sick or it could be that tomorrow is the day they get sick,” said the activist.

According to official ICE data, for this Thursday 77 foreigners arrested at the Karnes Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19, and nine of them are currently in isolation.

In the Dilley center there are four infected among those arrested, one in custody.

In total, ICE says it has detected 5,416 positive cases of coronavirus among those detained. Currently 841 are kept in isolation, and six immigrants in their custody have died after contracting the virus.

By Ana Milena Varón