The Biden administration is pressing ahead with plans to end the long-term detention of immigrant families, according to documents filed in federal court, although advocates worry that the policy change will not be permanent.
According to the US site, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates three detention centers designed to hold immigrant parents and children for the purpose of deportation proceedings: two Texas facilities are run by for-profit prison companies, and a smaller one is run by officials in Birks County, Pennsylvania.
These facilities contain beds for more than 3,300 parents and children, but the Biden administration’s new plan will stop using them as long-term family detention centers, at least temporarily.
In documents filed in US District Court in Los Angeles, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department said it plans to convert the Berks County Family Detention Center into an adult-only facility.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department also announced that Texas detention centers, in Dili and Karnis City, will move into short-term processing facilities designed to hold immigrant families for less than three days.
Legal service providers representing migrant parents and children detained in these facilities said that all of their clients have been released in recent days, but the groups have yet to receive any guidance as to why this is happening.
On Friday, the Immigration Department said that only 13 families were still in detention as of earlier this week, indicating that all of them are scheduled to be released by Sunday, as long as the test results are negative for the Corona virus.
The agency (Immigration Department) said in its file before the court: “The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department would like to indicate that it is reviewing its current family detention status in (family detention facilities) to allow for the wider reuse of physical facilities to better meet operational needs.”
In January, US authorities along the southern border detained more than 7,400 parents and children – a 60% increase from December. More than 4,700 of them were kicked out under Trump’s public health system, according to government data.
Immigration advocates have long called for an end to family immigration detention, which child welfare experts have concluded is harmful to minors and their psychological well-being. A 2016 report commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security called for an end to this practice.
The Trump administration sought to detain immigrant families for as long as their asylum cases were processed.