White House may restart detention of migrant families - sources

Migrants seeking asylum in the United States wait at a makeshift encampment, in Matamoros
Migrants who are seeking asylum in the United States rest as they wait at a makeshift encampment near the border between the U.S. and Mexico, in Matamoros, Mexico, December 29, 2022. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Reuters) - The White House is considering restarting the detention of migrant families caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, four current and former U.S. officials told Reuters, which would reverse a move to end the practice.

The Biden administration also is weighing reviving immigration arrests of migrant families within the United States who have been ordered deported, two of the officials said.

"It's all on the table," said one of the officials, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The Biden administration is exploring options as it prepares for a possible rise in border crossings with COVID-19 restrictions blocking migrants expected to lift on May 11.

President Joe Biden, a Democrat who took office in 2021, pledged to reverse the more restrictive immigration policies of Republican former President Donald Trump but has embraced some of his measures as border arrests soared to record levels.

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said that no final decisions had been made and that "the administration will continue to prioritize safe, orderly, and humane processing of migrants."

The New York Times first reported the possible restart of family detention.

The Biden administration has discussed using two Texas detention centers that previously housed families, three of the U.S. officials said.

A separate Biden official, when asked about reviving family detention in those two centers, said that idea was no longer under consideration.

The Biden administration said in a February 2022 memo that it was repurposing family detention centers to hold only adults, a major shift away from Trump's push to expand such detention.

Neha Desai, who represents migrant children in a decades-long lawsuit that governs conditions for their detention, criticized the possible detention restart.

"Even in conditions that actually meet minimum standards of health and safety, there is absolutely no humane way to detain families," she said.

Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Kristina Cooke, Robert Birsel

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Thomson Reuters

Ted Hesson is an immigration reporter for Reuters, based in Washington, D.C. His work focuses on the policy and politics of immigration, asylum and border security. Prior to joining Reuters in 2019, Ted worked for the news outlet POLITICO, where he also covered immigration. His articles have appeared in POLITICO Magazine, The Atlantic and VICE News, among other publications. Ted holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and bachelor's degree from Boston College.