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Alex Mensing, Communications Strategist
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Portland, OR —  According to recent media reports, the Biden Administration is considering reinstating family immigration detention. The practice of detaining immigrant families with children in Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)  custody – which often includes separating one of two parents from the family, as well as any children over 18 years of age and extended family members – expanded greatly in 2014 while Joe Biden was Vice President. In 2020, Biden tweeted “Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately. This is pretty simple, and I can’t believe I have to say it.” After nearly a year in office, in December 2021, the last families with children were released from ICE detention centers, ending the practice. 

Immigration detention of all people, in all its forms, is cruel and amounts to torture. In just the past week at least one man has died in immigration detention, and abuse and negligence that disproportionately impact Black and indigenous people and other people of color are rampant.

Stephen Manning, Executive Director of Innovation Law Lab, said:

“Every administration that has incarcerated families – including Obama and Trump – has done so for its own politically cynical calculus. The truth, however, is that the Biden Administration cannot incarcerate families without being against women. That is, the message that those who support family detention want to send to women is this: if you seek asylum to save your life, the U.S. will jail your children. It is not a radical truth to say that jailing infants and toddlers is wrong. Now is not the time to reinstate family detention. Now is the time to put an end to the practice, as well as all immigration detention, forever.

Innovation Law Lab and many of its current and former team members have personally witnessed the horrors of immigration detention, including family immigration detention at Artesia and Dilley, Karnes and Berks. Thousands of brave families and advocates organized for years to end this unconscionable cruelty. Read The Artesia Report, based on review of data collected from June 2014 through December 2014 by volunteers coordinated by AILA and the Immigration Council at the family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico for more information on the travesty of family detention.

The practice of incarcerating immigrant families with children, including small babies has never truly ended under the Biden administration. Families with children continue to be separated and locked up in freezing cold, overcrowded concrete cells in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities near the border. Invasive digital surveillance, including by strapping GPS tracking devices to people’s bodies, is widely used by ICE against immigrant families.


Innovation Law Lab, based in Portland, Oregon with projects around the United States, is a nonprofit organization that leverages law, technology and organizing to fight for immigrant and refugee justice. For more information, see and follow us on social media: @innovationlawlab on Facebook & Instagram and @ThinkLawLab on Twitter.