March 8, 2023 

Government Accountability Project Condemns Plans to Detain Migrant Families 

WASHINGTON — On Monday, The New York Times reported that the Biden administration is contemplating the reinstatement of family detention for asylum seekers at the southern border. Government Accountability Project strongly condemns this decision if implemented.  

Our clients, Drs. Scott Allen and Pamela McPherson, are DHS medical experts who have blown the whistle in each of the past two administrations about the inherent harm to children caused by family detention. Their whistleblower disclosures have spurred multiple investigations into the detention of families, and with support from the medical community, were instrumental to efforts to end the practice of ICE family detention in 2021. Drs. Allen and McPherson previously warned this administration in a whistleblower disclosure to Congress that the detention of families is not a humane alternative to restrictive border policies.  

Through their professional experience conducting oversight visits of the family detention centers over the last nine years, Drs. Allen and McPherson have concluded that there is a systemic inability of any detention facility to safely keep children in custody. It is their professional opinion that no amount of programming can ameliorate the harm to children caused by the act of holding them in detention centers. As they have noted, the medical evidence is irrefutable that detention foreseeably leads to mental health issues for children such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicidal or self- harming behaviors, neurodevelopmental disabilities, and chronic medical diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. 

Since their initial disclosures about the harm to children caused by detention, nothing regarding the subject of their whistleblowing has changed. The re-implementation of family detention would be antithetical to a humane and just border policy.  

Government Accountability Project’s Senior Counsel and attorney for Drs. Allen and McPherson, Dana Gold, stated, 

“President Biden has been on notice since his days with the Obama administration that family detention harms children. At the beginning of his term, the Biden administration commendably chose to wind down the practice of family detention, recognizing warnings from the medical community, including our clients Drs. Allen and McPherson, that it is systemically impossible to hold children in immigration custody without causing or risking grave harm. Any decision to return to the practice of family detention as a solution to address migration is a decision to knowingly cause harm to immigrant children for the sake of immigration policy challenges.”

Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Email:[email protected]
Phone: 202.926.3304   

Government Accountability Project  

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.