The Biden administration late last month began to allow into the United States some of the 25,000 asylum-seekers currently stranded by the Remain in Mexico program. On the first day of admissions, a group of 25 men, women, and children crossed into the U.S. through the San Diego crossing. Once here, it’s organizations like Jewish Family Service that have been helping these families with anything from diapers, to bus tickets to get to their sponsors (who are frequently relatives already living here).
“Faith communities have done crucial work to support asylum seekers and keep families together, but it should not be solely up to them,” said Victoria Strang, a policy advocate with faith communities at Human Rights Watch. “While the Biden administration has taken some positive steps, bold action is needed to transform the US border response into one that treats all asylum seekers with dignity.”
Advocates and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey this past weekend said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had emptied the Berks County Residential Center, a migrant family jail long condemned by advocates in the state and around the nation. The San Antonio Express-News reported that while two other notorious family jails in Texas said they would not be detaining asylum-seeking parents and children long-term, they would remain open as “reception centers” where families will be held long enough to undergo COVID-19 testing.
Advocates worry that temporary detention could turn into long-term detention, because that’s commonly happened before. They instead favor alternatives to detention, which not only keep families together in freedom, but have been massively successful (not to mention a lot cheaper). Alternatives to detention have further been recently supported by leaders like U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
“We also welcome new steps to end several migration policies that violated the human rights of migrants and refugees, including executive orders to end the family separation policy,” she said regarding U.S. immigration policy during a speech late last month. “I encourage further measures to tackle remaining issues, such as the massive detention of migrants, through the implementation of alternatives to detention.”