Judge rules order to release children from ICE custody by Monday is now ‘unenforceable’

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A federal judge in California ruled over the weekend that her previous order to release migrant children from ICE custody by Monday is now “unenforceable.”

Judge Dolly Gee of the Central District of California said Saturday that the conditions she laid out in June as prerequisites for releasing the children from detention over COVID-19 concerns had not been met. Namely, the children’s parents had not agreed to release them, Immigration and Customs Enforcement had not agreed to release parents with their children, and another court with jurisdiction over the parents had not ordered their release.

Gee’s previous order to release the children from ICE custody had raised the possibility that children would be separated from their parents, since the lawsuit Gee oversees does not give her the authority to rule on the parents’ release.

After the federal judge in D.C. declined to release the parents and ICE had not agreed to release parents and children together, Gee said her order is now “unenforceable by its own terms.”

“Of course, nothing in the Court’s prior order precludes ICE from continuing to promptly release eligible Class Members,” Gee said in court on Saturday, referring to the 100 children who are being held in ICE custody.

Gee warned that ICE is prohibited from separating families without the consent of the parent, per a court order in the wake of the Trump administration’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy.

“The Court urges all involved in this matter to pause, take stock, and stop disseminating the fiction that families will be separated as of the Court’s July 27, 2020 deadline,” Gee said.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the government and the children continue to negotiate on a document that could be given to parents in custody, which may include an explanation of their rights to release their children to live with a sponsor if they should choose.