Reinstating detention of migrant families? U.S. has a better alternative that already works.
This op-ed features Government Accountability Project’s whistleblower clients, Drs. Scott Allen and Pamela McPherson, and was originally published here.
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 long-lasting problems than temporary solutions.
In 2018, two of the government’s own medical consultants discovered a 16-month-old 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.