Judge delays deadline for release of migrant children held by ICE

The deadline was first set for Friday, and had it not been extended the migrant children ran the risk of being separated from their parents.

A migrant child disembarks a U.S. Border Patrol bus at the processing center and shelter in Deming, New Mexico on May 27, 2019.Adria Malcolm / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in California extended the deadline she first imposed that mandated the release of immigrant children detained with their parents in ICE family detention centers.

The deadline was initially set for Friday, and had the deadline not been extended the migrant children ran the risk of being separated from their parents and released.

Judge Dolly Gee had ordered the release of the children in June, after determining that the coronavirus pandemic had made the family detention centers unsafe. She wrote at the time that the family detention centers were "on fire."

Gee said the government is already violating her earlier order by holding them longer than 20 days. The average child has been in detention more than 100 days. Ninety-seven children are affected by the order.

Gee has now extended the deadline to July 27 after both parties asked for more time to negotiate how the children will be released.

Gee only has jurisdiction over the detained children, and her order only applies to them, meaning that ICE may have to decide whether to release children with their parents or separate families. ICE has opposed releasing their parents.

Lawyers for the migrants say they should be released while awaiting the outcome of their asylum cases given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in ICE detention.