WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A federal judge ordered the Obama administration to begin releasing hundreds of immigrant mothers and children being held in government family detention centers as they await asylum hearings.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles gave the government until Oct. 23 to begin releasing hundreds of immigrant children, repeating her July ruling that found the same. In Friday's ruling, Gee granted the government additional time, as much as 20 days, to continue to hold mothers and children under extenuating circumstances.
The case centers on a 1997 legal settlement that sets federal rules regarding housing children seeking asylum or in the country illegally and comes after last year's surge of nearly 70,000 families from Central America to the United States. The Obama administration is currently holding some 1,800 parents and children in three detention centers -- two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania.
In her previous ruling Gee called the temporary holding facilities deplorable and said they were unsanitary. Government attorneys argued the conditions have improved, but Gee wrote in her ruling they did not prove that point.
The ruling does not address a key question: Will children be separated from their parents when released?
It is unclear if the government will appeal the ruling.