WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is considering reviving the practice of detaining migrant families who cross the border illegally – the same policy the President shut down over the past two years because he wanted a more humane immigration system, officials familiar with the discussions said on Monday.
Although no final decision has been made, the move would be a stark reversal for President Joe Biden, who came into office promising to adopt a more compassionate approach to the border after the harsh policies of his predecessor, former president Donald Trump.
The Biden administration has largely ended the practice of family detention, instead releasing families into the United States temporarily and using ankle bracelets, traceable cellphones or other methods to keep track of them.
But the administration has turned to more restrictive measures as it struggles to handle a rise in migrants fleeing authoritarian governments and economic ruin in their countries.
Officials also fear a surge at the border after May 11, when a public health measure that has allowed the authorities to swiftly expel migrants expires.
Mr Biden’s tough new measures, including a crackdown announced last month that could disqualify a vast majority of migrants from being able to seek asylum at the southern border, have infuriated advocates who say the President is breaking campaign promises and embracing a Trump-era approach to immigration.
“Ending the inhumane practice of family detention has been one of the only positive immigration policy decisions of the Biden administration,” said Dr Leecia Welch, a lead lawyer in the case that led to the 1997 Flores settlement, which limits the time children can spend in detention and establishes minimum standards for holding facilities.
The White House declined to comment, but administration officials reject any comparison to Mr Trump and say Mr Biden’s policies are focused on finding ways to decrease the number of illegal crossings and expand migrants’ ability to seek legal pathways.
The Department of Homeland Security said no decisions had been made as the administration prepared for the end of the public health measure, known as Title 42.
“The administration will continue to prioritise safe, orderly and humane processing of migrants,” department spokesman Luis Miranda said in a statement. NYTIMES