All over the country, inmates and detainees are being released due to the spread of the coronavirus. Just today, former Trump consultant Paul Mannafort was released from prison because of the deadly virus. But that same disease that is forcing officials to release certain inmates and detainees is why government officials will not release detained children from detention centers.
The Los Angeles Times reports that thousands of detained children, some of whom have legitimate sponsors, will not be released from detention because of COVID-19. In one case, a teen boy from Guatemala has been in detention for more than 400 days — which violates the Flores agreement. The Flores agreement was put in place in 1997 in order to protect children from remaining inside detention centers for more than 20 days. The Trump administration is seeking to end this decads-long policy.
Government officials say that they are withholding children from being released because they won’t relax the vetting of possible sponsors. Officials indicate that children could, in turn, be placed in the wrong homes that would cause them more harm. Some applications are also delayed because agents cannot due to home visits because of the coronavirus.
What some immigration advocates say is that agency officials would rather deport children than see them released to people who want to take care of them here in the U.S.
Laura Peña, a former ICE attorney who now works for the American Bar Assn. ‘s Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, was representing a teenage girl who ended up being deported.
“It’s outrageous, trying to deport this child and deny them rights during a pandemic,” Peña told the LA Times. “Why?”
Going even further is new a new policy by the Trump Administration that allows immigration officials to deport children as soon as they arrive at the border.
What the government has always done, which is a law, is if a child arrives at the border alone, the child is always taken into a detention center. However, now since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, children are sent back immediately.
CBS News reports that in March alone, 299 unaccompanied children were sent back to their home country.
“The disease doesn’t know age,” Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters last month, according to CBS News. “When [minors] come across the border, they pose an absolute, concrete public health risk to this country and everybody they come in contact with.”
It’s pretty evident that this administration isn’t looking out for the well-being of these children or anyone of color.