Joe Biden US administration considering revival of Donald Trump-era migration policy

US president Joe Biden is considering reviving the practice of detaining migrant families who cross the border into the country illegally, reports have claimed — the same policy he shut down to create a more humane immigration system.

The New York Times said the policy of locking up families while their asylum case was considered was being contemplated by government officials struggling with a wave of increased migration into the US.

Instead, in recent years, families have been allowed to remain in the US during that period, but are kept in contact with authorities through ankle bracelets or mobile phone tracing. It is believed detention could be re-introduced as early as May 11, when a public health measure, known as Title 42, which allows authorities to easily expel migrants, expires.

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The policy is believed to be being considered as a deterrent to families considering crossing the border. The argument is the same used by the UK Government in relation to its new Bill, which aims to bar any migrants entering the country through non-legal means from applying for asylum in Britain.

US President Joe Biden speaking at a conference this week. Picture: Getty ImagesUS President Joe Biden speaking at a conference this week. Picture: Getty Images
US President Joe Biden speaking at a conference this week. Picture: Getty Images

However, Mr Biden has previously vowed to offer a more humane approach to migration compared to his predecessor Donald Trump.

The plans come shortly after the introduction of new temporary measures announced by Mr Biden last month, which will penalise asylum-seekers who cross the border illegally or fail to apply for protection in other nations they transit on their way to the United States. The rules, which would last two years, are designed to encourage migrants to seek asylum at official border crossings or through other legal channels – rather than crossing the border illegally and then requesting asylum.

“Ending the inhumane practice of family detention has been one of the only positive immigration policy decisions of the Biden administration,” said Leecia Welch, a lead lawyer in the case that led to the 1997 Flores settlement, which limits the time children can spend in detention and establishes minimum standards for holding facilities.

“It is heart-breaking to hear there could be a return to the Trump-era use of this practice.”

The White House said no decisions had yet been made as the administration prepared for the end of the Title 42 public health measure.

It is believed that under the new proposals, the administration would set a 20-day limit for detaining families, rather than holding them for weeks or even months as previous administrations did. Another option would be continuing the practice in place now — releasing families into the country, where they would be tracked and required to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office, the official said.

“The administration will continue to prioritise safe, orderly and humane processing of migrants,” Luis Miranda, a department spokesman, said in a statement.

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Family detention was also used by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who both faced heavy criticism for the policy.

Experts have raised fears the policy could encourage migrant families to send children to the border alone. Young people who are not with their parents are not expelled from the US. Instead they are placed in government custody and later released to live with a family member or other sponsor.



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