Congressman Horsford Demands Release of Children in ICE Custody

June 30, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. -- On Friday, June 26, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Judge Dolly Gee of the United States District Court of the Central District of California ordered Department of Homeland Security U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release all children who have been detained for more than twenty days at Berks Family Residential Center in Berks County, Pennsylvania (Berks), Karnes Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas (Karnes) and South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas (Dilley) by July 17, 2020. Congressman Steven Horsford joined the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to send a letter to ICE Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Director Matthew Albence demanding they uphold the court’s decision and release the children in their custody.

“We know the Administration has a history of separating thousands of children from their parents. Family separation should never be this country’s policy. Medical organizations have long stated that the practice creates extraordinary harm to children.  Detention of children for any amount of time, even with their parents, causes physical harm and irreparable trauma,” the Members of Congress wrote. 

“The Administration must stop using this public health crisis as a means for implementing unlawful and inhumane immigration policies. In these extraordinary times, human suffering need not be compounded through traumatizing and instilling fear in the hearts of migrant parents. ICE has long had the authority and discretion to swiftly and safely release families together into the U.S. and should act to do so immediately.”

Medical experts have continuously warned that detention increases the risk of transmission of the virus among detained individuals and facility staff. As Judge Gee observed, these facilities are now “on fire” due to ICE’s failure to ensure “the basics,” such as adequate social distancing, masking, and testing, and because of COVID-19 outbreaks in each facility’s surrounding area. Flores, at 3. ICE has confirmed that at least 11 children and adults and one GEO employee who works at Karnes, and at least two ICE officials and three CoreCivic employees who work at Dilley, have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.