Dona Abbott and Tawnya Brown on Children and ICE Detention Centers Need Protection, Safety, and Family Units

Amid fears over the spread of COVID-19, a federal judge ruled that U.S Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) must release all children held in the country’s three family detention centers by July 17. The ruling, which will impact at least 120 children, promotes the health and well-being of the most vulnerable in our immigration system. Many Americans agree that families belong together, at home, within welcoming communities, and near those who will love and support them throughout the asylum application process.

Let’s set the record straight from the outset — Children are not held in ICE family detention centers because they’ve broken the law or committed a crime. The act of seeking asylum is not illegal. In fact, pursuing safety in the U.S. because of violence, conflict, or persecution in one’s home country is a right given by American law. Yet, this is the first time a court has ordered the release of children from family detention, and it remains unclear how ICE will respond. It’s possible the agency will try to once again separate families by releasing children without their parents. It’s also possible ICE will simply try to deport the families altogether.