- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A federal judge rejected a demand for to free all illegal immigrant families being held in detention during the coronavirus pandemic, ruling Wednesday that even with heightened risks of the disease in detention facilities, it was too far of a leap to do a “blanket release.”

The ruling by Judge James Boasberg, in Washington, is a major blow to activists, who had pleaded for relief.

It’s also not the final word.

Another federal judge in California has ordered all the children in the facilities released, with a deadline looming next week. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which runs the facilities, is pondering whether that means separating the families and releasing the children to sponsors, releasing the parents too, or getting the parents to agree to keep the children with them in the facilities.

Judge Boasberg said in the case before him, ICE has taken steps to try to limit spread of the coronavirus, already releasing many detainees and cutting the population by about 70%, imposing temperature checks on staff, and voluntary testing and mandatory quarantining for new detainees.

And the judge said there are other measures ICE could take, short of full release, to improve protections.

“Petitioners, fearful as we all are of contracting a novel and dangerous disease, understandably swing for the fences in seeking wholesale release. Those fences are high and hard to clear, however,” he wrote.

He said a deterioration of standards could change his mind later.

“This is a devastating loss for vulnerable asylum-seeking families and for all Americans who value dignity and decency,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

She said ICE could still use its own authority to release the families, and urged it to do so.

She said she hoped the decision by Judge Boasberg, an Obama appointee to the court, would spark a new national conversation about immigration detention.

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