Mar 28, 2023 - Politics & Policy

More than 100 House Democrats warn Biden against family detention

Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, speaks during a rally in support of DACA outside the US Supreme Court

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal speaks during a rally in support of DACA in December. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than 100 House Democrats are raising "serious concerns" about reports that the Biden administration is considering resuming migrant family detention.

Driving the news: In a letter to President Biden on Tuesday, the lawmakers said the "harm of detaining children is clear," and outlined ways detention can cause psychological trauma to children and disrupt family dynamics.

Why it matters: The letter comes shortly after a similar one from Senate Democrats, underlining growing frustration in Congress over the administration's continued consideration of the move.

  • On Sunday, 19 Senate Democrats — including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — sent a letter to Biden calling family detention "ineffective and inhumane."
  • Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Senators in a hearing Tuesday that “no decision has been made" on whether to resume the detention of migrant families.

What they're saying: "We urge you to maintain your commitment to not detaining families and children and not return to a cruel policy of the past," states the House letter, led by Reps. Lou Correa (Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Bennie G. Thompson (Miss.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), David Trone (Md.), and Veronica Escobar (Tex.)

  • They encourage the use of "alternatives to detention," which track migrants and help them follow their immigration court case requirements.

The big picture: The government's consideration of family detention and roll out of a slew of other new border policies largely stem from the expected end of Title 42.

  • That policy has for three years cited COVID-19 concerns to allow the U.S. to rapidly expel migrants and asylum-seekers at the border more than 2.6 million times.

The other side: Still, congressional Republicans continue to make the border a focus of their investigations and criticism of the Biden administration.

  • They have zeroed in on a surge in fentanyl being trafficked at legal entry points along the Southwest border — a separate issue from the large numbers of migrants and asylum seekers who have been crossing the border illegally.
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