In reverse, Biden weighs stopping migrant families

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The Biden administration is considering detaining migrant families crossing into the United States illegally as it prepares to end COVID-19 restrictions at the US-Mexico border, according to US officials familiar with the plans. That would be a major change after officials stopped holding families in detention centers at the end of 2021.

Homeland Security officials are working on how to handle an expected surge of migrants at the border once COVID-19 restrictions that have been in place since 2020 are lifted in May. Detention is one of several ideas under discussion, and nothing has come of it. been finalized, officials said.

If the families were detained, they would be held for short periods of time, perhaps just a few days, and their cases would be expedited through immigration court, an official said. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on "rumors" that the policy was under consideration. “I'm not saying it is, I'm not saying it isn't,” she said. She declined to say whether President Joe Biden believed the detention of families was humane.

Under current policy, families arriving at the US-Mexico border are released into the US and told to appear in immigration court at a later date. During the height of the pandemic, few families were detained, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are now using those facilities to hold single adults who cross the border illegally.

But USA has moved increasingly to restrict migrants as it faces record numbers of people arriving at the Mexican border seeking asylum and is having some success in reducing the number of migrants making the dangerous and often deadly journey.

The suggestion to detain families again was met with scorn by immigration advocates, who point to studies showing how damaging detention can be for children and families. Many said they were surprised to hear of the possibility because they had been told that the families would no longer be detained.

“The Biden administration seeks to find a balance between protecting the rights of those fleeing persecution and violence and the desire to improve order in asylum processing,” said Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the Immigration Hub. “Detaining families has no place in this search. We implore the administration to reject this shameful and backward practice."

In 2020, Biden himself said in a tweet after reports that children were being released but their parents were not: “Children must be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately. This is pretty simple, and I can't believe I have to say it: families should be together."

A new survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows some support for changing the number of immigrants and asylum seekers allowed into the country. About 4 in 10 American adults say the level of immigration and asylum seekers should go down, while about 2 in 10 say it should be higher, according to the survey. About a third want the numbers to stay the same.

Illegal border crossings plummeted after Biden announced on January 5 that Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans would be returned to Mexico if they crossed illegally. At the same time, the administration announced that up to 30,000 people from those four countries could come monthly if they applied online, arrived at an airport and had a financial sponsor. The Border Patrol stopped migrants 128,410 times at the Mexican border in January, 42% less than in December, which was the highest month on record. Figures for February have not been made public, but one of the officials told the AP that migrants were detained some 130,000 times.

Last month, the administration said it would generally deny asylum to migrants who show up at the US southern border without first seeking protection in a country they passed through, reflecting an attempt by the Trump administration that never took effect because it was blocked in court.

But most of these efforts don't include families, who are treated differently because of children traveling. But parents who fear detention may also start sending their children alone, and the number of unaccompanied migrants is also increasing.

“I am alarmed by news reports that the administration is considering reinstating family detention policies,” said Bennie Thompson, D-Miss, the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee. “These policies are not only cruel and harmful to children, but they do not stop families from traveling to the United States.”

The administration has the capacity to house about 3,000 people in two family detention centers in Texas.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations detained the families at these facilities until they finished their immigration cases, although a court order prevents the government from holding children for more than 20 days . A third detention center in Pennsylvania was closed a few months ago.

Jean-Pierre rejected criticism that Biden was reinstating some of the policies of former President Donald Trump, who, among the major changes he made to the immigration system, severely restricted asylum and forcibly separated children from their parents in the border in one policy denounced throughout the world as inhumane.

″A lot of people have compared what the president is doing, either extending what Trump did or being very Trump-like,” Jean-Pierre said. "That's not what's happening here."

Administration officials are ending the national emergency on May 11 caused by the pandemic. Because the border restrictions known as Title 42 are tied to the national emergency, the administration plans to end them on May 11 as well. The US Supreme Court is weighing a Republican-led effort to keep them in effect, but has eliminated oral arguments . on the case of your calendar.

Most migrants who come seeking asylum don't actually get asylum, according to US government data. Only about 30% are considered eligible under US law, which narrowly defines who qualifies . Many people who come are looking for a better life and are fleeing poverty and devastation in their home countries, but that doesn't mean they stay in the US.

The two Texas detention centers are in Karnes City and in Dilley. Families are likely to be detained again at Dilley, which was used to detain families during the Obama and Trump administrations. The New York Times first reported that officials were considering detaining the families again.

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