The Biden administration has turned its three detention centers for migrant families into centers for single adults, appearing to end for now the practice of detaining parents with their children.
The move comes as the Department of Homeland Security increasingly uses alternatives to detention, such as ankle monitors and home visits, to track those released in the United States as their cases are filed. immigration ahead. The agency’s Alternatives to Detention programs are monitoring more than 145,000 people this month – an amount almost doubled from two years ago – according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a non-partisan research center at the University. of Syracuse.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement oversees three facilities that cater for parents with children: the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas; the Karnes County Family Residential Center near San Antonio; and the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania. The Dilley facility, with a capacity of 2,400 people, is the largest.
Asked about the change, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in an email that the agency was making “nimble” operational changes in response to changing conditions along the southern border.
“ICE has chosen to change its use of the Dilley facility to focus on single adults, in line with the administration’s goals of tackling irregular migration while supporting an orderly, secure and human, ”the spokesperson wrote.
Earlier this year, ICE transformed the Dilley and Karnes facility into short-term “drop-in centers” aimed at releasing families within three days. After the release of Berks’ last family in March, this establishment was redeveloped to accommodate migrant women instead. Karnes began detaining single adult men in November, according to the nonprofit legal services RAICES Texas.
As a presidential candidate, Biden called for an end to family detention, Tweeter, “Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately. “
Immigrant advocates have long cited reports of medical ill-treatment and sexual and physical violence in these establishments. They said the change, first reported by Axios, was encouraging but was not a real end to family detention.
Silky Shah, executive director of the Detention Watch Network, said the Biden administration should implement an official policy ending the practice of family detention that would permanently close these facilities without converting them into adult detention centers. She noted that President Obama also stopped detaining parents with children at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Texas during his first year in office before expanding family detention to other facilities in 2014.
“In the absence of an official end to the policy, the Biden administration leaves the door open for the reactivation of family detention in the future,” she said in a statement.
The United States held 22,000 immigrants in custody as of Dec. 5, a decrease of 30,000 from June, according to TRAC, with immigrants being held for shorter periods. Three quarters of those detained do not have a criminal record.
Border officers continue to turn back thousands of families at the border under Trump-era policies that require some migrants to “stay in Mexico” while their cases are processed and prevent many others from seeking asylum under a health status linked to the pandemic called Title 42.