With the approaching end of Title 42, the White House is reportedly considering reimplementing the policy of detaining migrant families rather than temporarily releasing them into the United States.
President Joe Biden is considering detaining families for a maximum of 20 days, the New York Times reported. The reconsideration is based on growing fears within the White House that illegal border crossings will surge with the May 11 expiration of Title 42, a pandemic-era public-health measure that allowed for the immediate rejection of asylum claims.
“The administration will continue to prioritize safe, orderly and humane processing of migrants,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told the New York Times in a statement.
The news marks an abrupt reversal from Biden’s previous commitment to reject the border policies of former president Donald Trump, which Democrats have cast as inhumane, often referring to Republican efforts to put “kids in cages.”
“Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately,” then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted in June 2020. “This is pretty simple, and I can’t believe I have to say it: Families belong together.”
Leecia Welch, a lead attorney for the Supreme Court case Reno v. Flores which set limits on childhood detention, called the news “heartbreaking.”
“Ending the inhumane practice of family detention has been one of the only positive immigration policy decisions of the Biden administration,” Welch told the Times. “It is heartbreaking to hear there could be a return to the Trump-era use of this practice.”
Although the Biden administration has consistently sought to make a point of approaching the border crisis and illegal crossings with a different tact from his predecessor, the president has sometimes reinforced Trump-era policies.
In early January, Biden expanded Title 42 by offering a limited number of individuals from Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba legal entrance into the United States so long as they had a financial sponsor. However, nationals from those countries who did not follow the new procedure would be expelled.
The following month reports emerged that the White House was considering overhauling America’s asylum-adjudication system to expedite the workflow at border-processing centers.
These initiatives may have worked in the intervening months as border crossings between America and Mexico hit new lows since Biden first came to office. Between December 2022 and January 2023, such crossing dropped by 42 percent. Still, one anonymous White House official told Reuters “It’s all on the table” when it comes to ongoing internal deliberations about border control.
Under Biden, the number of illegal migrants caught along the Mexico border rose to a record high in 2022. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) caught 234,088 people crossing along the southern border in April 2022, the highest figure in the recorded history of the DHS.
The policy of family detention has been used by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.