fbpx What Family Detention Means in the U.S. Immigration System - Documented

Family Detention

The U.S. government often used to separate children and parents detained at the border, but said it ended the practice in mid-2018.

Family detention is the practice of detaining migrant asylum seekers together with their children.

This practice — and the commonality of splitting children and their parents in immigration detention — came to light in the summer of 2018. The federal government under President Trump had been separating immigrant children from their families at the southern U.S. border, and the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy enumerated that it was done as a deterrent.

Trump eventually signed an executive order that directed the Department of Homeland Security to stop separating families. A week later, a U.S. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction requiring U.S. immigration authorities to reunite most separated families within 30 days and to reunite children younger than 5 within two weeks. Within days, a government court filing stated that it would keep families who had been arrested at the border detained together.

The government had argued in an earlier court filing that it would have been impossible to detain those families together because “one reason those families decide to make the dangerous journey to illegally enter the United States is that they expect to be released from custody.”

There are currently three Immigration and Customs Enforcement “Family Residential Centers” used for family detention. Two are located in Texas and one is in Pennsylvania.

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