- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal officials on Friday appealed a court order to quickly release immigrant children from family detention centers.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson said in a statement that officials were taking steps to comply with the order by U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee but disagreed with portions of her decision. He did not specify which portions.

In recent months, the government has been converting family detention centers into processing centers for interviews and screenings, Johnson said.

“The detention of families is becoming short-term in most cases,” he said.

Last month, Gee ruled that the federal government was in breach of a longstanding legal agreement stipulating that immigrant children cannot be held in secured facilities that aren’t licensed to care for children.

She gave authorities until Oct. 23 to comply with her order to release them, with their mothers when possible.

Federal court records show the government filed the notice of appeal on Friday.

Peter Schey, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he expected the government would argue the children are not covered by the 1997 agreement because they arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border with their mothers and not entirely alone.

“We’re disappointed that Secretary Johnson is persisting in pursuing a mindless policy that causes extreme harm to innocent children,” he said.

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