A federal judge on Friday said she will order the Trump administration to end the controversial practice of holding migrant children in hotel rooms while arrangements are made for them to be summarily expelled from the U.S. under an unprecedented pandemic-era border restriction.
Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles announced the preliminary order during a status conference on Friday afternoon. She said she would issue a final order later in the day and delay its implementation until next week, agreeing to a request by Justice Department lawyers who expressed concerns about the government’s immediate ability to comply with the court mandate.
Gee’s expected ruling, if upheld, will pose a significant logistical and legal hindrance to the secretive hotel detention system the Trump administration has expanded during the coronavirus pandemic to facilitate the rapid expulsions of unaccompanied migrant children and families.
Citing a directive issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued in mid-March with the stated objective of curbing the spread of COVID-19, U.S. officials at both land borders have been swiftly expelling most unauthorized migrants, regardless of their age or intention to apply for U.S. humanitarian refuge.
While single migrant adults are being expelled directly to Mexico or Canada, hundreds of unaccompanied children and families with minors have been held in hotel rooms while they await to return to their home countries on flights chartered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Inside these hotels, children and families are supervised by private contractors hired by ICE and generally not allowed to call lawyers or present their case for asylum if they fear returning to their home countries, according to attorneys and court documents.
Between March and July, at least 660 migrant minors, 577 of them unaccompanied, were held in more than 25 border-area hotels, according to court documents.
A spokesperson for ICE said the agency was aware of Gee’s expected order. “ICE is evaluating the court’s decision but is unable to comment further due to ongoing litigation,” the spokesperson added.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.