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US Judge Orders Prompt Release of Immigrant Children

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2014 file photo, detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border, in Karnes City, Texas.

A U.S. federal judge has ordered the government to promptly release undocumented immigrant children and their mothers being held in family detention centers.

Judge Dolly Gee's ruling in Los Angeles late Friday upheld the ruling she delivered last month that families who are being held at the sites are being detained in violation of a 1997 class-action settlement that set legal parameters for the housing of children who are in the country illegally.

Gee gave the government until October 25 to release the children and, in some cases, their mothers without "unnecessary delay."

The Los Angeles Times says the U.S. is holding an estimated 1,400 children and parents in three facilities; two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania. That arrangement is in violation of the settlement that said juveniles under the age of 18 cannot be held for more than 72 hours unless they are a significant flight risk or are a safety risk to themselves or others.

Detention conditions

Gee described the conditions at the detention sites as "deplorable", saying they fail to meet "even the minimal standard" for safe and sanitary conditions.

Judge Gee rejected the U.S. contention that it had to alter terms of the settlement to deter the massive wave of illegal immigrant children from Central America who poured across the U.S. border last year.

The U.S. is expected to appeal Gee's ruling.

Peter Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, told The Los Angeles Times the judge's ruling helps to protect immigrant children "from lengthy and entirely senseless detention by the Department of Homeland Security in unsafe adult lockdown facilities run by private corporations raking in millions of dollars in profits."

Schey told the newspaper that Homeland Security's detention policy, over the past year, "has caused thousands of innocent children to needlessly suffer severe psychological and often physical harm."

The focus on immigrant detention policies comes at a time where there has been much talk in the media as Republican presidential hopefuls discuss their often controversial immigration ideas. Donald Trump has labeled Mexican undocumented immigrants as "criminals" and "rapists."