San Diego – March 26, 2020 – Cooley and the National Center for Youth Law, together with the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law and the UC Davis Law School Immigration Clinic, applied for a temporary restraining order in Lucas R. v. Azar, seeking emergency relief on behalf of children and youth in legal custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) due to risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The requested order seeks the expedited release of children to waiting family members and includes a requirement that children with no one to care for them be transferred immediately to a non-congregate care setting that complies with CDC guidelines to minimize the risk of exposure or be offered the opportunity to file an administrative appeal to challenge their continued placement in congregate care under these circumstances.
As the number of COVID-19 cases rise, the CDC, state health authorities and epidemiologists all urge safety precautions that are challenging to observe in facilities housing more than 10 people at a time, including social distancing. But hundreds in ORR custody live, eat and sleep in close proximity.
“The COVID-19 risks to children in ORR congregate facilities are obvious, imminent and severe,” said Summer Wynn, litigation partner at Cooley. “ORR has a constitutional obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of children under its care. Our application asks the court to order ORR to release nearly 1,200 children to ready and previously identified custodians (primarily family and friends) or to at least transfer them to non-congregate settings where there is a better chance for maintaining social distancing and other health and safety measures. These children deserve a fighting chance to protect their health while sheltered with loved ones.”
Cooley, the National Center for Youth Law, the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law and the UC Davis Law School Immigration Clinic represent the plaintiffs in Lucas R. v. Azar, a federal class action that challenges the federal government’s policies and practices related to the detention, placement and release of unaccompanied migrant youth in federal custody in violation of the US Constitution and federal law.
Read the full press release from the National Center for Youth Law
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