RAICES Statement on Changes Made to Family Detention

San Antonio, TX – In response to the recent news that the Biden administration has made changes to the practice of imprisoning immigrants in family detention centers, RAICES has issued the following statement:

As long as the family prisons are open along the Southern border, children and their parents are incarcerated and are not free to leave. With these prisons functional we run the risk of return to deportations and prolonged detention. President Biden must shut them down immediately.

This is a non-permanent policy move that might lead people to think ICE is no longer detaining families. It’s simply not true and to say otherwise puts people’s lives at risk. ICE is currently detaining people at Karnes who have been issued a Notice to Appear, which is the charging document to initiate removal proceedings. For the past three years we’ve observed up close countless and frequent policy changes directly impacting the lives of people seeking safety but who are imprisoned by our government. ICE can resume expedited removal and prolonged detention at any moment. Meanwhile thousands of people are being expelled from the border under Title 42, a Trump-era Covid-19 emergency declaration that effectively seals off the border from all migration in the name of the pandemic, which President Biden has opted to keep.

ICE is one of the best funded government agencies with an annual budget of over $8 billion. Each year they spend billions of our tax dollars incarcerating people, yet with all this spending they’ve not created a streamlined operation to release people within three days. We have clients who’ve been incarcerated by ICE for over two years. Airports are able to process millions of people very quickly, with full security checks, and get them to their destination. For as long as ICE continues to exist, they need to spend less money on detention centers and more money getting people to their families safely. We know from experience that the vast majority of families have relatives in the U.S. to which they can be released while their immigration case plays out.

The biggest threat to these families safety is that they are being deported by the U.S. government back to the most dangerous places for children in our hemisphere. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice don’t have to put them in deportation proceedings. They are choosing to do so.

Experts unilaterally agree that there is no safe way to imprison children. Three days of family incarceration means three days of guards in uniform traumatizing children by barking orders at them and their parents, and waking families up with flashlights and slamming doors through the night. It’s three days of family separation because fathers are held in solitary confinement while mothers and young kids are detained in separate cells.

Contact: Jessica Ortiz
[email protected]