33 Coronavirus-positive Immigrant Children Released From Chicago Shelter

The 33 minors from a shelter for immigrant children in Chicago, Illinois, who tested positive for coronavirus will be released immediately in response to a recent court ruling, the center told Efe on Wednesday.

The ages of the children at the Heartland center range from earliest childhood to age 17 and, apart from the 33 who tested positive for the coronavirus, there are 36 other immigrant children who are in good health, and will also be released.

Mailee Garcia, director of communications for the Heartland Alliance, said this decision responds to the ruling of Judge Dolly Lee, in California, who ordered the federal government to release all immigrant children.

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García indicated that Judge Lee’s order applies to all the shelters and social centers in the country where the Office of Refugees and Resettlement (ORR) has sent thousands of immigrant children who were seeking political asylum with their parents.

Garcia added that the main goal now is to reunite minors with their sponsors, who may well be uncles, aunts and even grandparents in many cases “Our main objective is to safely reunite children with a sponsor, and we are working closely with ORR to address these issues quickly, “he said.

Regarding children with coronavirus, García noted that a doctor can authorize them to return with their relatives or sponsors, although none of the children shows symptoms.

“Since the children are now symptom-free of COVID-19, we can obtain medical clearance for their release once ORR approves their sponsorship,” said Garcia.

Leaders of the immigrant community welcomed the news that the children will be released, after several protests demanding the minors’ departure from the center.

“It is a victory that they free these children and reunify them with their families,” the Rev. José Landaverde, pastor of the Anglican mission Fe, Vida y Esperanza, told Efe,

Two years ago, Landaverde began an arduous fight to have centers like the Heartland Alliance, which receive immigrant children through ORR, be closed.

Although the Heartland Alliance will remain open, Landaverde said he was satisfied with the children’s departure.

“We were all right at the time because it was a violation of human rights,” Landaverde reiterated.

The activist and also pastor of the Nuestra Señora de Suyapa sanctuary in Waukegan, Julie Contreras, said she almost cried with emotion knowing that the children would no longer be detained.

“I cannot imagine a child so small and so alone and in another country without anyone giving him a hug or taking him by the hand,” said Contreras.

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