Court Filing: ICE is changing family detention centers
On Friday March 5, 2021, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) stated, in a court filing, that it is ending the detention of immigrant families and is transforming family detention centers, turning them into facilities to house immigrant families for a short period of time, no more than 72 hours.
Adding to that, according to figures released by ICE, there were only 13 immigrant families pending for release on Friday, and 7 of them were due to be released that same day. The other six families were to be released on Sunday, March 7, as long as they did not test positive for COVID-19, according to NBC News.
This is a prominent change from policies implemented by the previous administration, led by former President Donald Trump, on the immigration system. Dozens of immigrant rights advocates and activist groups celebrated this news after four years in which the Trump administration detained immigrant families for a considerable period of time and tried to deport them without giving them the opportunity to present their immigration cases.
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Immigrant family detention under the previous administration
Former President Trump stated on multiple occasions that immigrants should not cross the US borders without legal documentation under any circumstances, and that, if they decide to do so, they should face legal charges for violating guidelines established by the local immigration system.
Adding to that, the former president also argued that adult immigrants often use minors to enter the US without prior authorization, waiting to be released thanks to the children. Following this premise, his administration tried to transform immigration law to detain immigrant families together or even separate immigrant minors from their parents, sparking a gigantic social controversy.
It is important to remember that most families who cross the US borders without legal documentation plan to apply for international protection through political asylum or other humanitarian programs, while trying to flee from unsafe situations such as persecution, violence or war.
However, despite the fact that many of these immigrant families were seeking international assistance, the Trump administration tried to narrow alternatives available to them if they crossed the borders by means other than authorized ports of entry, where they would not have the opportunity to enter the US either due to the MPP (Migrant Protection Protocols) or “Remain in Mexico” policy.
In fact, in 2018, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and HHS (Department of Health and Human Services), following an executive order issued by former President Trump, proposed to detain families together in family centers or other facilities until their immigration applications were resolved, which substantially increased the detention of immigrant families.
Now that the Biden administration has decided to end this practice, immigrant communities hope that it will also repair damages caused by the previous administration and offer them more benefits to migrate with dignity.
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