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Judge: U.S. must free migrant children from family detention

HOUSTON (AP) — A federal judge on Friday ordered the release of children held with their parents in U.S. immigration jails and denounced the Trump administration’s prolonged detention of families during the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s order applies to children held for more than 20 days at three family detention centers in…

Judge: U.S. must free migrant children from family detention

HOUSTON (AP) — A federal judge on Friday ordered the release of children held with their parents in U.S. immigration jails and denounced the Trump administration’s prolonged detention of families during the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s order applies to children held for more than 20 days at three family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some have been detained since last year.

Citing the recent spread of the virus in two of the three facilities, Gee set a deadline of July 17 for children to either be released with their parents or sent to family sponsors.

The family detention centers “are ‘on fire’ and there is no more time for half measures,” she wrote.

In May, ICE said it was detaining 184 children at the three detention centers, which are separate from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services facilities for unaccompanied children that were holding around 1,000 children in early June. The numbers in both systems have fallen significantly since earlier in the Trump administration because the U.S. is expelling most people trying to cross the border or requiring them to wait for their immigration cases in Mexico.

Gee oversees a long-running court settlement governing the U.S. government’s treatment of immigrant children known as the Flores agreement. Her order does not directly apply to the parents detained with their children.

But most parents last month refused to designate a sponsor when ICE officials unexpectedly asked them who could take their children if the adults remained detained, according to lawyers for the families. The agency said then it was conducting a “routine parole review consistent with the law” and Gee’s previous orders.

Advocates contend that ICE should release all families from detention especially as the coronavirus has spread rapidly through immigration detention. In court filings revealed Thursday, ICE said 11 children and parents have tested positive for COVID-19 at the family detention center in Karnes City, Texas.

At the detention center in nearby Dilley, at least three parents and children — including a child who turned 2 this week — were placed in isolation after two private contractors and an ICE official tested positive for the virus.

Amy Maldonado, an attorney who works with detained families, said Gee “clearly recognized that the government is not willing to protect the health and safety of the children, which is their obligation.”

“They need to make the sensible choice and release the parents to care for their children,” she said of the government.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

More than 2,500 people in ICE custody have tested positive for COVID-19. The agency says it has released at least 900 people considered to have heightened medical risk and reduced the populations at its three family detention centers. But in court filings last month, ICE said it considered most of the people in family detention to be flight risks because they had pending deportation orders or cases under review.

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Judge blocks Trump administration’s census deadline

A federal judge late Saturday issued a restraining order against the Trump administration forbidding it from ending in-person census counting on Sept. 30, ruling that more time is needed in order to have an accurate count. Judge Lucy H. Koh, an Obama appointee to the bench for the Northern District of California, blocked the Census…

Judge blocks Trump administration’s census deadline

A federal judge late Saturday issued a restraining order against the Trump administration forbidding it from ending in-person census counting on Sept. 30, ruling that more time is needed in order to have an accurate count.

Judge Lucy H. Koh, an Obama appointee to the bench for the Northern District of California, blocked the Census Bureau from following through on its Aug. 3 plans, which called for surging census takers into the field in August and September in order to be done by the end of the month, with a count submitted to Congress by the end of this year.

The Census Bureau had previously said that because of the coronavirus pandemic, operations would have to stretch later into the year, with a final count submitted to Congress next April.

Judge Koh said she hasn’t made a final ruling on the schedule, but issued the restraining order to keep the bureau on track for the extended schedule while she ponders the broader questions.

President Trump’s opponents still hailed the ruling as a major victory.

“The court rightfully recognized the Trump administration’s attempted short-circuiting of our nation’s census as an imminent threat to the completion of a fair and accurate process,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

More than 85% of households have been counted for the 2020 census, with census takers working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. The bureau has offered bonuses to try to spur faster work in order to meet the end-of-month deadline.

Trump opponents, though, say there’s no way to get a full count in the weeks left before Sept. 30.

Hundreds of billions of dollars in government programs depend on census numbers, and so does the breakdown of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mr. Trump has issued a directive ordering the census to produce an additional count that tries to subtract illegal immigrants from the total, saying that’s the count Congress should use when divvying up House seats next year.

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Judge orders DHS to stop holding illegal immigrant families in hotels

A federal judge late Friday ordered the Trump administration to stop using hotels to hold illegal immigrant children and families nabbed at the border during the coronavirus pandemic, ruling that the conditions aren’t good enough. Judge Dolly M. Gee, an Obama appointee to the bench, said a decades-old agreement about how illegal immigrant children are…

Judge orders DHS to stop holding illegal immigrant families in hotels

A federal judge late Friday ordered the Trump administration to stop using hotels to hold illegal immigrant children and families nabbed at the border during the coronavirus pandemic, ruling that the conditions aren’t good enough.

Judge Dolly M. Gee, an Obama appointee to the bench, said a decades-old agreement about how illegal immigrant children are to be treated sets standards, and the hotels don’t meet those standards.

“The court finds that these conditions are not adequately safe and do not sufficiently account for the vulnerability of unaccompanied minors in detention,” wrote Judge Gee, who more than any other individual save President Trump is responsible for writing the rules of the modern immigration system.

The government is using the hotels as a stopgap measure to keep migrants for about five days before they are expelled back to their home country under the public health emergency.

Some 660 children ages 10 to 17 have been housed in 25 hotels across three states.

Judge Gee said those hotels run the risks of spreading coronavirus to the children, with housekeeping and other staff coming and going.

She said the children should instead be sent to government-run shelters for illegal immigrant children — the very shelters the government, under court pressure, has tried to empty out to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“This court is sensitive to the exigencies created by COVID-19 and recognizes that the pandemic may require temporary, emergency modifications to the immigration system to enhance public safety,” she wrote. “But that is no excuse for DHS to skirt the fundamental humanitarian protections that the Flores Agreement guarantees for minors in their custody, especially when there is no persuasive evidence that hoteling is safer than licensed facilities.”

The Flores Agreement is the court-imposed settlement that governs the treatment of illegal immigrant children. Originally, it only applied to children who showed up at the border without a parent, but under a Judge Gee order in 2015, it now also applies to those who arrive with parents, too.

That sparked the family migrant surge that saw hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants jump the border last year — and saw some children die in the attempt.

The Trump administration this year triggered part of public health law, Title 42, that allows immediate expulsion of unauthorized border crossers.

The administration had argued that people subject to that weren’t part of the Flores Agreement.

Judge Gee rejected that attempt to draw a distinction.

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Judge kicks Kanye West off Virginia ballot for November

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A judge on Thursday ordered rapper Kanye West’s name removed from presidential ballots in Virginia. West was disqualified because he failed to meet a requirement that 13 people pledge their support for his campaign, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Taylor said. Taylor ruled that 11 of the 13 “Elector Oaths” the…

Judge kicks Kanye West off Virginia ballot for November

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A judge on Thursday ordered rapper Kanye West’s name removed from presidential ballots in Virginia.

West was disqualified because he failed to meet a requirement that 13 people pledge their support for his campaign, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Taylor said.

Taylor ruled that 11 of the 13 “Elector Oaths” the West campaign submitted were invalid, including some that were “obtained by improper, fraudulent and/or misleading means.”

Earlier this week, a law firm with ties to prominent Democrats sued on behalf of two people who said they were tricked into signing such an oath.

An attorney for West did not respond to an email seeking comment.

West announced a presidential bid in July, saying he’s seeking the nation’s highest office on a ticket he calls the “Birthday Party.” His quixotic campaign has led to lawsuits in several states over whether his name should be on ballots.

Democrats claim Republicans are pushing West’s candidacy in swing states to siphon Black votes from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

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