Responding to a temporary restraining order by Judge Dolly M. Gee of the United States District Court directing the government to make continuous efforts to release children currently being held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody, Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA said:
“We still don’t know enough about how this pandemic can affect children. But what we do know is that children should not be detained, in any circumstances, because of their immigration status. Each day that a child is detained is a day that poses greater and greater risks. Children are held by ICE for far too long, in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, without improved personal hygiene, physical distancing, appropriate medical care, or even COVID-19 testing. They are treated as an afterthought for prevention efforts, not as a part of smart and humane planning. What is even more worrying is how children are isolated or quarantined without any thought to the potential long-lasting psychological harms.
“This treatment of children should make every single person in the United States sick to their stomach. At a time when protecting public health rests on access to care for all, inaction by ICE endangers not only these children’s health but also jeopardizes the public.”
According to the United States District Court, in preparation for the preliminary injunction hearing, by April 6, ORR and ICE need to provide a brief summary of efforts toward family reunification or release of children.
Amnesty International USA is calling for the children to be released to family, faith, and other community members in the U.S. and for the government to ensure all people have the same access to care and safety – no matter where they may be.