Biden Needs to Offer a Comprehensive Plan, Not Band Aid Fixes
Washington, DC – Leading Democrats, experts, and advocates have been universal in condemning the news that the Biden Administration is considering reinstating family detention. While the White House Press Secretary attempted to downplay the “rumors” that family detention is back on the table as a possible border policy, Secretary Mayorkas seemed to be telling Christiane Amanpour of CNN that family detention was indeed on the table.
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:
“Detention of families with children is not a plan, it is a loathsome tactic that won’t modernize our immigration system or help manage people seeking safety through our asylum system. Turning the page on the Donald Trump and Stephen Miller era means not going back to family detention and failed deterrence-only policies that inflict trauma on children. Candidate Biden was clear on this and President Biden should be, too.
Reinstituting the policy would contradict President Biden’s pledges, alienate key Democratic allies, and blur important distinctions between the parties. There are proven, effective policy options for the Biden administration to manage families and individuals seeking safety that doesn’t involve locking them up. That is the discussion the Biden team should be having as part of a clear plan to make our immigration system work again for the American people.”
Since the news broke late Monday, leading voices have highlighted how reinstituting family detention would be both harmful to children and a political and policy failure.
Bad Politics: Broken Promises and Alienating Key Democrats
- House and Senate Democrats were forceful in denouncing the proposed reinstitution (see this good recap from HuffPost, “Democrats Are Furious Biden Might Bring Back ‘Inhumane’ Family Detention Policy”).
- As Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) assessed: “I will just say this: Family detention was wrong under Trump, and it is wrong now. If anybody tries to implement it, I’ll call it out. It doesn’t address the chaos at the border, and it doesn’t fix our broken asylum system. It’s the wrong way to do it. And we need to actually solve this problem.”
- As we highlighted yesterday, 2020 candidate Biden forcefully denounced family detention in both his official platform and elsewhere.
Cruel, Traumatic, and Ineffective Policies
- On a press call held yesterday afternoon, Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA-46), joined with advocates and experts to condemn the potential reinstitution. See post-event press release with speaker quotes and a recording link here.
- Read Dara Lind in Immigration Impact, “This Is Pretty Simple, Mr. President: Don’t Restart Family Detention.” She notes, “the administration has other options available to address this problem that don’t involve indefinitely holding children against their will…Not only are family detention centers incredibly poor places for children, they are also notoriously wasteful locations when compared to the alternatives. Instead of spending money on family detention, it could be building out more capacity at ports of entry to process families seeking asylum without forcing them to cross and turn themselves into Border Patrol.”
- In 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report, “Seeking Safe Haven: Detention of Immigrant Children & Families, based on physicians who had witnessed substandard care in family detention facilities. Their conclusion, “The AAP firmly believes that no child should be in detention.”
- ICE’s own report from 2016 (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Advisory, Committee on Family Residential Centers, “Report of the ICE Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers”) determines that “DHS’s immigration enforcement practices should operationalize the presumption that detention is generally neither appropriate nor necessary for families–and that detention or the separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement or management are never in the best interest of children. DHS should discontinue the general use of family detention, reserving it for rare cases when necessary following an individualized assessment of the need to detain because of danger or flight risk that cannot be mitigated by conditions of release.”