Oppose New Family Separation and Indefinite Detention Policies

After massive public opposition to the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families at the border, Trump reversed his position on June 20th with an executive order ending the practice. However, the administration is again looking to institute policies that separate immigrant parents from children. In 1997, a federal court decided in Flores v. Reno that the government couldn’t detain an immigrant child beyond a reasonable amount of time, defined in 2014 as 20 days. To work around this legal obligation, the Trump administration is considering detaining asylum-seeking families together for 20 days, and then forcing the parents into a “binary choice” – either stay in family detention with their children for an undetermined amount of time, or allow the children to be taken into government custody in the hopes a relatives can seek guardianship. Asking parents to make such a choice is not only immoral, but also potentially illegal under current law.

Beyond the moral and humanitarian implications, unlimited detention of thousands of migrant families is also economically wasteful - "tent cities" cost upwards of $800 per person per night. The reason behind detention is to ensure asylum seekers show up for their court appointments, but alternative methods are also successful in ensuring that outcome. The justice system regularly allows misdemeanor and non-violent offenders to be released pending trial, and tools like electronic monitoring, home visits, or bonds are highly effective. The Family Case Management Program launched in 2016 monitored asylum seekers while allowing them to stay together and out of detention. Immigration advocates praised the program for its 99% compliance rate, cost efficiency, and the additional medical and legal support provided to migrants. The Trump administration ended the program in 2017 to prioritize detention.

Detaining families together is no better than detaining families separately. Our government has options in how it treats migrants and asylum seekers in our country even as we defend our borders. We must choose the most humane approach available, which is not indefinite detention or separating families.

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