Three unaccompanied immigrant children in the custody of a US refugee agency in New York have tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first such cases of immigrant children in government custody, according to a statement from an official with the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
“As of March 26, 2020, there have been three confirmed COVID-19 disease cases among UAC in one ORR care provider facility in New York,” the Office of Refugee Resettlement said in a statement. “At this time, ORR is suspending releases from New York care provider facilities. ORR’s medical team is working with the programs in New York and local health department to collect information and determine next steps.”
The agency, which is housed within the Department of Health and Human Services, oversees shelters across the country that hold unaccompanied immigrant children. These shelters then look to identify potential "sponsors" or family members in the US for permanent placement.
There have been 18 unaccompanied children who have been tested, 11 of whom have tested negative, while another four are still awaiting results.
There are more than 3,500 unaccompanied immigrant children currently in the custody of ORR.
On Wednesday, attorneys filed a legal request in court to force the Office of Refugee Resettlement to release unaccompanied children in government custody due to risks associated with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“As the number of documented cases of COVID-19 rises, the CDC, state health authorities, and epidemiologists, all urge safety precautions that are difficult, if not impossible, to observe in facilities housing more than ten individuals at a time, including social distancing. But many children in ORR custody live, eat and sleep in close proximity,” the groups, which include the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, said in a statement.