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    Expert Issues Brief Civil Rights

    COVID-19 and Migrant Child Detainees: Releasing & Treating Children in Detention

    By examining public support for the release of migrant children and for the types of necessities child detainees should be allocated, LPPI expert Chris Zepeda Millán finds that 82% of the public supports releasing child detainees (to family members or sponsors) and over 90% support providing detained children with medical care and other basic necessities.


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    By examining public support for the release of migrant children and for the types of necessities child detainees should be allocated, LPPI expert Chris Zepeda Millán finds that 82% of the public supports releasing child detainees (to family members or sponsors) and over 90% support providing detained children with medical care and other basic necessities.

     

    Overview:

    The CDC contends that limiting face-to-face contact is the best way to limit the spread of COVID-19. Yet, this is almost impossible for immigration detention centers that are severely overcrowded.  Amidst the pandemic, 60% of detainees who have been tested were confirmed positive for COVID-19, including dozens of vulnerable migrant children. LPPI expert Chris Zepeda-Millán uses polling data taken prior to the pandemic to examine the degree of public support for releasing migrant children from detention as well as public preferences for the types of basic necessities that should be provided to child detainees. Survey results show that 82% of the public supports releasing child detainees (to family members or sponsors) and over 90% support providing detained children with medical care and other basic necessities. This brief puts forth policy recommendations to rapidly test child detainees for COVID-19, treat them immediately by doctors at a local hospital, and release them without delay to sponsors or family members upon recovery.  

     

    Key Findings:

    • When given the policy options of detaining, releasing (to sponsors or family members) or deporting migrant children, 82% of those surveyed supported releasing immigrant children to sponsors or family members. 
    • 11% supported deporting migrant children from the country, and only 6% backed keeping children in immigrant detention facilities
    • Almost all Democrats (97%) and a solid majority (57%) of Republicans chose releasing child detainees as their preferred policy option.
    • Over 90% of survey respondents support ensuring detained children’s access to six out of the ten accommodations we listed, including medical care.  This support transcends partisan differences