A federal judge in California on Thursday extended a deadline for the Trump administration to release migrant children detained with their parents at federal facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The deadline was set for Friday, but District Court judge Dolly Gee pushed it back to July 27.
There are approximately 300 parents and children detained in two family detention centers in Texas and another in Pennsylvania.
Gee set the original deadline in June in response to reports that facilities failed to provide health protections against COVID-19.
Court documents show that at least 39 migrant family members at the Karnes detention center in Texas have tested positive and several employees at that facility and another in Dilley, Texas, have contracted the virus as well.
Gee only has jurisdiction over detained children and the order only applies to them, leaving ICE with the choice to release the parents as well or separate the families.
The Justice Department and Peter Schey, lead attorney representing minors in litigation related to the Flores Settlement agreement, requested the deadline be extended on Wednesday, as they have not agreed on how to inform the parents of their children’s rights and how to place minors with sponsors.
“It’s tragic that ICE, especially during this COVID pandemic, is unwilling to release a very small number of parents being detained with their children,” said Schey.
Attorney Shalyn Fluharty, who is part of a group representing families at the Dilley facility, said ICE should release the families together, adding that the agency has not provided the families with adequate information to make a choice on whether to release them to sponsors.
“Our moms don’t know if they will be deported without their kids if they are separated. They don’t know if their children are released if they will have an opportunity to talk to an immigration judge,” said Fluharty.