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The federal government has to launch immigrant youngsters to detention facilities for coronavirus

Protesters march in Los Angeles on June 18, 2018 against the separation of migrant children from their families.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Service has until July 17 to release children detained in the country's three family detention centers because of the risk of a coronavirus pandemic, a federal judge ordered in Los Angeles.

US District Judge Dolly Gee said in a Friday ruling that children detained in the ICE family's dormitories for more than 20 days should be released until July 17th in "unassembled facilities" to which "suitable sponsors" would be released "and even belonging to their own parents can also be released if the conditions warrant it.

The centers are "on fire" and there is no time left for half measures, "wrote Gee.

She cited "irregularly implemented written protocols", Covid-19 employees in a Texas facility and 11 inmates with the virus in a Kansas family home.

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The matter is now in the hands of ICE, which had 124 children in these facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania on June 8th. The ruling applies only to children, it does not force ICE to release parents.

Gee said ICE may use tracking devices on some parents if it is deemed necessary to release them with their children.

Last month, NBC News reported that mothers and fathers – each of the 366 families in ICE detention – chose the latter because of the decision to release their children or to remain in family custody together.

Gee criticized family residences as potential hot spots for the virus.

"The court is not surprised that COVID-19 has arrived," Gee wrote to ICE and the United States Refugee Agency.

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