In June ICE announced that it would be changing its family detention policy to decrease the amount of time families seeking asylum spend there. Reports indicate that the effect is now starting to be seen on the ground. However, this small reduction in the amount of time spent by traumatized, persecuted children and their mothers and in detention is no substitute for simply ending the US’ shameful family detention policy. We urge ICE to implement community-based support models instead.
The change that is started to be realized is that Incarcerated mothers and their children at family detention centers are now starting to be released a little bit sooner than they were before. To be released while their asylum case is ongoing, they must prove they have a credible fear being persecuted in their home country (which is part of the asylum claim), provide a US address where they will stay, and must not be a national security or flight risk. Instead of being required to pay cost-prohibitive bonds to be released, more are receiving ankle monitors if they promise to show up at their asylum hearings.
However, some families have still been in detention longer than a month, and any length of time that children spend in incarceration is too long. These children and their mothers were already traumatized by the persecution they suffered in their home countries, for which they are seeking asylum. These families are often fleeing drug and gang violence and have already experienced close family members being killed, torture, and rape. Family detention only compounds the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other forms of psychological distress from which they suffer.
Although these baby steps that ICE has taken are a step in the right direction, they are no substitute for ending the US’s shameful practice of mass incarceration of vulnerable families.