Chicago Sun-Times

Reinstatin­g detention of migrant families? U.S. has a better alternativ­e


In an effort to get ahead of an expiring public health measure that allowed the United States to quickly remove migrants, President Joe Biden and his administra­tion are reportedly pondering bringing back the detention of migrant families — an immigratio­n policy with a history of poor management, lasting harm and public failure.

The New York Times reported the Department of Homeland Security is drafting what it would need to do to restart temporary family detention by May 11, when Title 42 expires.

The Biden administra­tion needs to put a hard stop to the idea, especially when the U.S. already has a less harmful and better managed alternativ­e that works.

When the Biden administra­tion ended the practice of family detention, families were allowed to live with relatives and report for their court dates while they waited to seek asylum. It’s a method that prevented migrant families from being “subjected to the kind of family detention that can harm them in the long run,” Julian Castro, a former member of the Obama administra­tion, told Newsweek.

Migrant families with no American relatives were released into the U.S. temporaril­y while being monitored and tracked through ankle bracelets or traceable cellphones.

The continuati­on of this practice is also being considered by officials and should be the method that takes priority.

Family detention was meant to deter desperate migrant families from crossing the border, but through various administra­tions, the policy has proved to bring more longlastin­g problems than temporary solutions.

In 2018, two of the government’s own medical consultant­s discovered a 16-monthold baby who lost about 30% of his body weight because of untreated diarrhea, and another 27-day-old infant who was not examined until the baby had a seizure, an outcome of an undiagnose­d bleeding of the brain. Detaining children in facilities also could lead to permanent psychologi­cal harm, the doctors said.

“In our profession­al opinion, there is no amount of programmin­g that can ameliorate the harms created by the very act of confining children to detention centers,” the two physicians, Scott Allen and Pamela McPherson, said in a letter to the Senate’s Whistleblo­wer Protection Caucus.

There must be a better choice than reinstatin­g family detention. And there is.

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