Boasberg said about 620 family members — including 285 children — remain at the three facilities that hold families in Texas and Pennsylvania — down from 1,350 about two weeks ago and 826 last week. The order by Boasberg expanded on similar rulings by U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee of Los Angeles in a long-running lawsuit over ICE custody of children.
Boasberg directed ICE by May 18 to identify if and how many detained family members or staff have tested positive for the virus at the centers, and if infections have been confirmed, why detainees have not been released or transferred. He also ordered ICE to describe policies and practices aimed at protecting family detainees at higher risk of serious illness or death if infected.
Vanessa Molina, attorney with the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation, said no detainee at the family detention centers — one in Berks County, Pa., and two in Dilley and Karnes City, Tex. — has tested positive for the virus and populations have fallen by half. She said ICE would keep judges updated and improve conditions to avoid exposing detainees to unreasonable medical risks.
Lawyers for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, the Rapid Defense Network and ALDEA allege that ICE facilities are like jails and that families seeking asylum are civil detainees who should not be held under punitive conditions.
As of Monday, 360 ICE detainees have tested positive for the virus, as have several dozen unaccompanied minors in detention at federal licensed shelters operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement with the Department of Health and Human Services. Thirty-five detention center agency employees have also tested positive.
Families make up a small fraction of detainees, a population that has dropped to its lowest numbers since 2016 to about 30,700 nationwide, according to publicly reported figures on April 18.
Correction: An earlier version of this article reported erroneously that a federal judge ordered ICE to justify the detention of parents held longer than 20 days at family detention centers. The judge added reporting requirements for ICE related to parents but did not require it to specify reasons for lengthier detentions. This story has been updated.