For Immediate Release

US Supreme Court Ruling that Children of Asylum-Seekers Must be Released from Detention Lacks Necessary Provisions for Parents; Risks Further Family Separation

New York - The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds today to a federal judge’s ruling that children of asylum-seekers in detention centers must be released by July 17, 2020 due to the outbreak of coronavirus in these facilities, but leaves the door open for the Administration to effectively separate families by releasing children to sponsors or transfer them to state custody while parents remain detained or are deported.

 This decision also leaves out potentially thousands of adult asylum-seekers and other immigrant groups at the mercy of the detention system to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among detainees. 72 percent of individuals in detention centers are expected to be infected by day 90 under an optimistic scenario, according to recent modeling

Olga Bryne, the Director of U.S. Immigration at the IRC said:

“While this decision will provide relief for the children of asylum-seekers, who were needlessly detained across 3 detention centers, it leaves it to the Trump Administration to decide whether the children will leave with their families or else be separated from them. The parents of the children, as well as asylum-seekers and immigrants, are at risk of continued or indefinite detention until their cases are heard. We urge that children and their parents are released together, and with urgency. The U.S. Government must not use this decision as a means to separate families.

“The policy to lock up people for seeking safe haven from danger was cruel at the point of ideation, but to keep them locked in during the most infectious pandemic in 100 years, is inhumane. As the U.S. deals with a new spike of COVID-19 cases breaking a record for daily cases, the risk to public health is exacerbated  for those waiting out their cases in detention centers.”

The IRC continues to provide emergency humanitarian programming to asylum-seekers on both sides of the U.S. southern border. In Phoenix, the IRC provides comprehensive assistance to asylum-seekers released from U.S. government detention through a collaborative shelter operation in Phoenix providing warm meals, clothing, transitional shelter, travel coordination to more than 8,000 asylum-seekers since June 2018. In California and Texas, we are working alongside partners to respond to asylum seekers’ urgent needs.

To protect the health and safety of all, the Department of Homeland Security should take immediate steps to maximize the use of humanitarian parole, release on recognizance, and community-based alternatives to detention, following medical screening and in a manner consistent with public health protocols. Public health experts universally agree that social distancing is one of the most important measures we can all take to combat the spread of COVID-19, something that is impossible in detention facilities.


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The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.

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