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Rep. Grijalva Demands HHS and DHS Comply with Court Order and Release Migrant Children from Detention

TUCSON— Today, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva led 30 Members of Congress in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security demanding that they comply with a court order to release unaccompanied migrant children from detention. At the end of March, U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee directed the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to undertake every possible action to safely release minors held in detention to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in detention centers. The lawmakers wrote:

“Medical experts fear the exceptionally rapid transmission of COVID-19 in detention facilities, where medical resources such as physicians, testing kits, and protective equipment are constrained; people are unable to practice social distancing; shared facilities are not frequently or properly sanitized; soap and hand sanitizer are not provided or easily accessible to detainees; quarantine or isolation units are scarce; and there are frequent opportunities for an infected person to enter or leave the facility.”

“For unaccompanied children in detention, who are already more likely to have mental health concerns or may be separated from their family members, the trauma of undergoing solitary quarantine for the virus or simply not receiving adequate information about the potential for infection is likely to exacerbate existing mental health concerns.

“According to the most recent data provided by ICE, about 3,359 children are detained in ICE family detention facilities, including more than half - 1,861 - who have been detained for three months or longer. These individuals are not serving time for a crime. Instead, they are waiting for a hearing to determine whether they can legally remain in the country under civil proceedings. Already, four detained children tested positive as have staff members at shelters for unaccompanied children. Amongst adult immigrants in ICE custody, there have been at least 72 confirmed cases nationwide. Failing to promptly release these minors from these dangerous conditions increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19, with potentially fatal consequences not only for detained immigrants, but also for ICE officers, detention staff, and the general public.”

Click here to read the full text of the letter.

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