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Judge delays ruling on ICE detention, meaning migrant parents and kids could be separated Friday

One judge has ruled that children must be released on Friday, but a second judge now says he won't rule till next week if their parents should be released.

WASHINGTON — A federal judge said Monday he will not rule until the middle of next week on whether migrant parents detained by ICE in family detention centers should be released, meaning 335 children and parents now held there could begin to be separated from each other on Friday.

The decision by Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for D.C. would come after the July 17 deadline imposed by a federal judge in California for all children to be released from ICE's three family detention centers to mitigate their exposure to COVID-19.

That means it's possible that the children held in the ICE family residential centers could begin being released on Friday and thus separated from their detained parents.

One potential remedy now being negotiated by the two parties in the California case would present parents with the choice of remaining in custody with their children instead of allowing their kids to be released and therefore separated from them. This option has not been finalized, so may not become a possibility before the Friday deadline.

Previously, when the option of release and separation was presented in May, migrant parents have declined to separate from their children.

But Shalyn Fluharty, director of the Dilley Pro Bono Project, a group representing migrant parents at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, said due to the rise of COVID-19 in ICE facilities some parents could now choose to separate.

"We have parents who want to be separated because they think their kids will die otherwise," Fluharty told NBC News after Boasberg declined to make a ruling at Monday's hearing on the issue.

"These parents know absolutely nothing about what will happen to their kids" after they're released, Fluharty said, noting that the government has not committed to allowing the children to remain in the United States or seek asylum.