President Biden is considering bringing back the practice of detaining migrant families who cross the border illegally in what could be a major immigration policy reversal, according to a report on Monday.
Biden, 80 shut down the practice of family detention in 2021 amid pressure from Democrats, and after campaigning in 2020 against the Trump administration’s use of the policy.
The consideration of reimplementing family detentions comes as the Biden administration grapples with the looming end of Title 42, a Trump-era program that allowed authorities to swiftly deport migrants apprehended crossing the border.
Officials fear a surge of illegal immigrants at the border after May 11, when the Title 42 public health measure officially expires.
According to the New York Times, senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials have held several meetings over the past few days to discuss options for deterring migrants — including detaining families caught crossing the border illegally for up to 20 days.
Continuing with the current practice of releasing families into the country with monitoring devices and requiring them to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office is also being considered, according to the report.
DHS has indicated that no final decisions have been made on how border policing will change, if at all, after the end of Title 42.
“The administration will continue to prioritize safe, orderly and humane processing of migrants,” a DHS spokesman told the outlet, which first reported the administration’s consideration of reimplementing family detentions.
Leecia Welch, the lead lawyer in Reno v. Flores, the Supreme Court case that led to limits on the time children can spend in detention and established minimum standards for holding facilities, told the Times that the possibility of family detention coming back is “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 outlet.
“It is heartbreaking to hear there could be a return to the Trump-era use of this practice,” she added.
Family detention has been used by former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.
The Trump administration sought to detain families indefinitely to discourage illegal immigration but attempts to end limits on how long minors could be detained were blocked by the courts.
Biden campaigned against Trump’s use of family detention, and was urged by fellow Democrats to adopt more humane immigration policies after he took office.
“Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately,” he wrote in a Twitter post in June 2020. “This is pretty simple, and I can’t believe I have to say it: Families belong together.”
Last month, the Biden administration published a new immigration rule that would disqualify migrants who illegally cross into the US from applying for asylum.
The new rule would require asylum-seekers to apply for protection in any country they travel through before they arrive in the US.