• Press Release

Judge to government: promptly and safely release kids from detention centers

April 24, 2020

Photo by Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Responding to a decision by Judge Dolly M. Gee of the United States District Court directing the government to make every effort to promptly and safely release children currently being held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody, including children subjected to the so-called “Remain in Mexico” program, or the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA said:

“It is well past time that children were released. No child should ever be detained because of their immigration status and the continued detention of children as a global pandemic has spread quickly and forcefully, has placed lives at great and unnecessary risk.

“We have documented again and again that conditions these children have been placed into are dangerous, unsupportive, and cannot arguably be considered in any child’s best interests during a health emergency. The best interests of the child are to be with their family, and their community.

“Children in ORR custody should be expeditiously released to sponsors, and children detained by ICE must be released together with their parents, guardians, and caregivers. It is unconscionable that ICE continues to balk at releasing children with their mothers and fathers, let alone from detention. ICE must stop separating families.

“Once released, the children can finally receive the care they needed all long, but only time will tell how many have been impacted by close contact in facilities and have had their health already compromised in dangerous and cruel ways.”


Amnesty International USA is calling for the release of all families from ICE detention, and has launched a campaign featuring three families held in prolonged detention, including a 1-year-old who at one point was hospitalized and placed on a machine to breathe. Amnesty International USA is further calling for immigrants and asylum-seekers to be released, many who have family, faith, and other community members in the U.S. long waiting to welcome them, and for the government to ensure all people have the same access to care and safety – no matter where they may be. Amnesty International has documented the negligent care and ill treatment in immigration detention of people seeking safety in the U.S., including families in three ICE detention facilities, further jeopardizing them during COVID-19.

Amnesty International has documented how President Trump’s policy of family separation has in some cases constituted torture as defined under U.S. and international law,  denounced the Remain in Mexico policy which has pushed asylum-seekers into dangerous and precarious conditions in Mexico, and spoken out against asylum agreements and asylum bans that cut off access to the U.S. asylum system.

To learn more about COVID-19 and human rights, visit: https://www.amnestyusa.org/distant-but-together-responding-to-covid-19/ 

Media contact: Mariya Parodi, [email protected]