A federal judge on Thursday postponed a deadline she set for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release detained immigrant children due to their high risk of exposure to coronavirus.
Last month, US District Judge Dolly Gee told ICE it had until Friday to release immigrant children from its three family detention centers. In her June 26 order, Gee said she was very concerned about the potential of COVID-19 infection inside the facilities, saying there was “no more time for half measures.”
The Trump administration now has until July 27 to comply with her order, which said children can be released with their parents or to a sponsor while their mothers or fathers remain in ICE custody.
The order applies to children detained with their parents or guardians in the facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania for more than 20 days. However, ICE can detain children beyond the 20 days if a suitable sponsor isn’t found, a parent declines the minor’s rights to be released, or if they failed to appear at a court hearing.
Gee oversees a 1997 court settlement known as the Flores agreement that says the government can’t detain children for more than 20 days. The terms of the agreement apply to children who arrived to the US with their parents or guardians and unaccompanied minors. The Trump administration has been trying to get rid of the agreement in an effort to detain immigrant children and their parents indefinitely.
Late Wednesday, Peter Schey, the attorney representing children covered by the Flores settlement agreement, and Sarah Fabian, an attorney for the government, filed a joint request to postpone the July 17 deadline Gee had set by 10 days.
The reason for the request, according to court documents, is that both sides haven’t agreed on a set of forms that would advise parents of their children’s rights under the Flores agreement and obtain the information of potential sponsors the kids can be sent to.
Advocates have expressed concern that the forms will be used to present immigrant parents with a “binary choice” — agree to let your children be released to a sponsor while they remain in ICE custody, or sign away your child’s right to be released under the Flores settlement and be detained indefinitely together.
ICE had been accused of presenting this choice to parents in their custody this spring, but the agency denied it, saying officials were trying to get potential sponsor information from the parents.