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Press Release // Immigration and Asylum

Biden Administration Considers Reviving Migrant Family Detention

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Global Refuge Staff

March 7, 2023

Contact: Tim Young | timothy.young@globalrefuge.org

Washington, D.C. – The Biden administration is considering reviving the practice of detaining migrant families who cross the border without prior authorization, as first reported by the New York Times. The American Association of Pediatrics has previously stated that no amount of time in detention is safe for children, and that “even short periods of detention can cause psychological trauma and long-term mental health risks for children.”

The discussions come on the heels of the administration’s pivot towards deterrence-focused restrictions in the lead up to the anticipated termination of Title 42, a pandemic-era public health rule used to quickly expel migrants more than 2.6 million times over the past three years. Last month, officials proposed an expansive asylum restriction that would largely ban access to asylum if migrants did not first seek and be denied protection in another country they transited through to reach the United States.

In response to the administration’s consideration of migrant family detention, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Global Refuge, said:

“Family detention has long been established as exacting a tremendous mental and emotional toll on children and parents alike. The very concept of family detention is antithetical to core American values and robs vulnerable people of their God-given dignity.

Beyond these very serious moral concerns, family detention has proven to be an ineffective deterrence policy and an exorbitantly expensive misuse of taxpayer funds – in fact, detaining a family has historically cost the U.S. government $319 per day, per family bed. President Biden should instead focus on keeping his campaign promise to invest in humane alternatives to family detention, such as case management programs. These programs allow asylum-seeking families to live with dignity and satisfy their immigration requirements at a fraction of the cost to both taxpayers and our nation’s reputation as the world’s humanitarian leader.”

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