Biden Administration Converts Texas Migrant Centers to Quickly Release Detained Families in 72 Hours or Less

The Biden administration will transform two Texas facilities where detained migrant families are held in Ellis Island-style express processing centers, meaning adults and children crossing the border will be housed for up to 72 hours before being released to the U.S.

In a court filing on Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the families will continue to be detained at a 2,400-bed detention center in Karnes City and an 839-bed detention center in Dilley, Texas, but the United States government intends to retain adults. and children at those sites for three days or less.

Migrant families previously held at a third facility, the 96-bed Berks County Family Detention Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania, have been released, according to the ICE disclosure made Friday in Flores’ decades-old lawsuit filed in name of migrant children. Instead, ICE will use that detention center to house adults.


The three family detention centers opened when now President Biden was vice president to President Barack Obama. While running for president, Biden vowed to free the detained families.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has preliminary plans to transform the two facilities in South Texas into express processing centers intended to screen 100 families a day, The Washington Post reported for the first time, citing internal emails describing the previously unpublished changes.

A migrant family crosses the border into El Paso, Texas, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on Friday, February 26, 2021 (AP Photo / Christian Chavez).

A migrant family crosses the border into El Paso, Texas, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on Friday, February 26, 2021 (AP Photo / Christian Chavez).

The number of unaccompanied minors and families arriving at the US-Mexico border this year “is expected to be the highest number seen in more than 20 years,” Russell Hott, a senior ICE official, wrote in an email. email sent to staff members Thursday. .

Even as the two facilities in South Texas are transformed into express processing centers, that “may not be enough to keep up with the arrests,” Hott warned in the email reviewed by the Post. And those who cannot be accommodated in those centers not even for 72 hours will be transferred to nearby hotels.


ICE contractor MVM will transport families unable to stay at those facilities to hotels, and the company plans to select hotels in McAllen, El Paso and Phoenix, Arizona, Hott wrote.

The detention centers in Dilley and Karnes will serve as quick-release intake facilities, where unaccompanied minors and families will undergo background checks and be released before preliminary court hearings, anonymous DHS officials told the Post. Some migrants enroll in alternatives to detention, such as ankle monitoring programs.

Anyone who tested positive would be quarantined for 10 days, officials said. The nonprofit partners would work to arrange plane and bus tickets to their final destinations in the US, often to stay with family or friends while they await their court hearings.

In an opinion piece published by Fox News on Friday, Thomas Homan, the former acting director of ICE under the Trump administration argued that Biden’s team created a border crisis in “record time” by ending the achievements of the Trump administration in the first place. 40 days from the opening day.

Homan said illegal crossings on the southern border were at record lows when Trump left office, an achievement achieved in part through agreements with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. He gave Trump credit for the Remain in Mexico Program, as well as the border wall to curb illegal entry into the U.S. and the Title 42 designation that would require most illegal aliens to be immediately returned to Mexico due to to the COVID pandemic.


Homan said that Biden’s reversal of most of Trump’s policies is “facilitating illegal entry” into the United States. The Biden administration is also coming under fire from Republicans for considering changing the names of some border facilities to “reception centers” to convey a message that the people will. be released quickly, the Washington Examiner reported.

But attorneys working with detained immigrant families welcomed the new 72-hour release plans and credited the Biden administration for announcing the change. They noted that even shorter detention stays could be harmful to children.

A migrant family crosses the border into El Paso, Texas, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on Friday, February 26, 2021 (AP Photo / Christian Chavez).

A migrant family crosses the border into El Paso, Texas, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on Friday, February 26, 2021 (AP Photo / Christian Chavez).

“Family detention will never really end until the facilities close and the contracts with ICE end,” Bridget Cambria, executive director of legal group Aldea – The People’s Justice Center, told The Associated Press.

The Biden administration has already released several asylum-seeking families who had been detained for a year or more in Texas and, in some cases, arrived within hours of deportation. Those families will continue their cases while they remain subject to ICE monitoring.

In its early days, Biden has faced increasing numbers of families and unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, resulting in tight space in Border Patrol holding cells and facilities. long-term for children operated by Health and Human Services. In the case of the Border Patrol, hundreds of children in recent weeks have been detained for more than 72 hours, the general limit set by agency standards.


Biden stopped the practice started by former President Donald Trump of expelling unaccompanied immigrant children under public health authority. Officials expelled thousands of children to their home countries without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum or other protections under federal law.

The Biden administration continues to expel immigrant families and adults.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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