Democrats are fighting mad about a report the Biden administration is considering bringing back family detention of migrants – calling to mind the so-called ‘kids in cages’ frenzy of the Trump administration.
The president eliminated the practice when he took office, and actively campaigned against it saying ‘families belong together.’
But with Title 42 – a pandemic-era measure that allows authorities to promptly deport migrants – expiring in May, senior White House and Homeland Security officials are discussing the possibility of reinstating the program, the New York Times reports.
‘These reports are deeply concerning—reinstating family detention would be a grave mistake,’ Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., member of the Homeland Security Committee tweeted of the news.
‘Instead of relying on costly failed policies that traumatize migrants and cruelly encourage more families to separate, we must focus on building a safe and humane immigration system.’
The Trump administration had detained children with their families upon crossing the border. The Biden administration opted to release families into the U.S. temporarily before their hearings, believing the policy ‘more humane.’
President Joe Biden is said to be considering reinstating a family detention program for migrants that cross the southern border illegally. He is pictured here on Sunday in Alabama
Angeldry Galeno, a Venezuelan migrant trying to apply for asylum in the United States using the CBP ONE application and whose husband travelled to another point of entry to the U.S. to attend his immigration appointment, changes her daughter’s clothes at a shelter near the border between Mexico and the United States on February 3
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán called the report ‘deeply concerning.’ ‘A just, safe, and humane immigration system should not place families in detention,’ she added.
House and Senate Democrats were caught completely off-guard by the report and felt blindsided by the White House’s policy decisions for the second time in two weeks.
Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas is set to address the Hispanic Caucus virtually at 4 p.m. to explain the surprise u-turn. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the report.
‘I’m not going to speak to rumors,’ she told reporters. ‘Clearly the Department of Homeland Security is working through ways on how to move forward once Title 42 is lifted.’
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement he was ‘alarmed’ by the report’ and urged the Biden administration to change course ‘if true.’
‘I think it may have been internally floated for discussion, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told reporters on the policy. ‘But this administration ended that form of detention, I can’t understand for the life of me why they would bring it back.’
While some immediately voiced their opposition, others declined to show any daylight between themselves and the Biden administration.
Homeland Security chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., told DailyMail.com he had not read the report yet.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-De., a member of Homeland Security who recently led a delegation to Central America, declined to comment on family separation but talked about the need to address root causes of migration.
But moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he would not be opposed to bringing back the controversial policy.
‘Whatever it takes to secure the border. The border is a mess—It’s a disaster. So, I’m supporting anything we can to get control of that border and secure it,’ he told reporters.
Arizona Democrat Rep. Raul Grivalja called family detention a ‘failed policy’ that is ‘callous and inhumane.’
‘Family detention serves two purposes: lining the pockets of private prison companies and acting as a useless deterrent to prevent migrants from seeking their legal right to asylum,’ he said.
Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas briefed angry Congressional Hispanic Caucus members over the Times report on Tuesday afternoon
Cesar Galeano, a Venezuelan migrant, is pictured walking into Mexico across the Paso del Norte international bridge after he failed to get asylum in the United States on February 3
A migrant caravan is pictured in the city of Tapachula in Mexico on March 4 as they prepared to enter the United States
Newly elected Texas progressive Rep. Greg Casar wrote on Twitter: ‘Locking immigrant families and children into cages along the border is dangerous, ineffective, and wrong.’
It would be just the president’s latest crackdown on illegal immigration as the number of migrants crossing the southern border reaches historic levels.
He is now being sued for a proposed rule that would make migrants ineligible for asylum in the U.S. if they did not first attempt to claim asylum in a country they passed through.
And critics say the president may lose even more favor amongst Democrats if he approves a new family detention policy ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Biden campaigned against his predecessor’s use of family detention, which was also used under former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, for whom Biden served as vice president.
He even tweeted in June 2020, when a federal judge ordered the release of migrant children from detention centers due to the global pandemic: ‘Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately.
‘This is pretty simple, and I can’t believe I have to say it: Families belong together.’
Almost immediately after taking office, he shut down all of the family detention centers in the United States as he sought a more humane approach to immigration.
Instead, the Biden administration implemented a practice of releasing families into the country temporarily and using ankle bracelets, traceable cellphones and other methods to keep track of them.
But now the U.S.-Mexico border is faced with all-time record border crossings since Biden took office that fail to ease with each passing month.
In 2021, the U.S. saw 1.7 million immigrants come into the country. In 2022, that number rose to more than 2 million.
The number of migrants caught illegally crossing the southern border has now reportedly hit one million less than four months into the fiscal year. And with the end of Title 42 in sight, federal officials fear the situation may only get worse.
Department of Homeland Security officials are reportedly already outlining what would need to be done to restart family detention by May 11, the date Title 42 expires.
Under the proposal, current and former officials said, the Biden administration would follow a law that sets a 20-day limit for detaining families, rather than holding them for weeks or months on end like his predecessor did.
But the Biden administration would face a slew of logistical obstacles if it were to reinstate the family detention program, the Times reports.
Among those issues would be finding spaces to hold families with educational programs and playgrounds, as the former detention cites are now being used for single adults.
And Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees the detention centers, is already facing a budget shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The plan also assumes that the government would be able to screen families for asylum quickly, either admitting or deporting them within a 20-day window when the average stay in an ICE detention center is 37 days.
Additionally, three of the officials who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity described concerns that family detention would encourage parents to send their children across the border alone instead of risking family detention.
Under current policy children who arrive in the country without a parent or legal guardian are not expelled, but rather placed in government custody and eventually released to live with a family member or another sponsor.
Critics say putting the families in a position of sending their children to the US without them is de facto family separation, a controversial measure used by the Trump administration under which 5,500 children were separated from their parents at the southern border.