Court Orders Every Effort Be Made to Promptly and Safely Release Immigrant Children
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the immediate risk it poses to thousands of detained immigrant children, the National Center for Youth Law and co-counsel applied for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) seeking emergency relief. On March 28, United States District Judge Dolly Gee issued a nationwide Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) requiring the Federal Government “make every effort to promptly and safely release” the thousands of immigrant children currently being detained.
Today, following additional briefing and oral argument, Judge Gee extended the nationwide TRO until April 24, 2020. The court recognized that the “medical consensus is that any form of congregate care puts a child in custody at higher risk of infection” and that “the current pandemic makes the [Flores] Agreement’s promise to protect and expeditiously release minors even more critical to their safety.”
The court found that NCYL and co-counsel had identified multiple issues that may result in the unnecessary delay of children’s release, including:
- ORR’s blanket bans of releasing minors in certain states;
- ORR’s postponing release of minors in facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19;
- ORR’s failure to adapt fingerprinting and home study requirements for certain cases despite the indefinite pause on services; and
- ORR’s blanket ban on the release of children with removal orders based on the Migrant Protections Protocols, or “Remain in Mexico” policy.
The Government’s supplemental response is due on April 17, Plaintiffs’ reply is due on April 22, and the preliminary injunction hearing will be held on April 24, 2020 at 10 a.m.
We are pleased with today’s ruling and hope that the government will fulfill its obligations to safely and expeditiously release immigrant children to their sponsors and keep children in custody safe from COVID-19.