Axios: Biden halts holding migrant families in detention centers

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley was emptied last week. As of Friday, there are zero migrant families being held in the detention center. More than 100 families were removed or released. Now the facility is empty.


Instead of holding migrant families in detention centers, the Biden administration will use ankle bracelets and other tracking technology. The family residential center will be used to detain single adults.

“ICE has chosen to shift its usage of the Dilley facility to focus on single adults,” an ICE spokesperson confirmed to Axios, “consistent with the administration’s goals of addressing irregular migration while supporting a system of border management that is orderly, safe and humane.”

One promise Joe Biden made as he entered the White House was that his administration would be the most transparent administration ever. Since then, time and again we learn after the fact of a change in policies or actions, especially in dealing with the Biden border crisis. This is another example. This happened last week and we are only now learning about it. This is a big change. Axios reports that there are two other smaller family residential centers. Karnes County Staging Center in Texas and Berks Family Staging Center in Pennsylvania are not being used. This is being reported as the fulfillment of a Biden campaign promise to release families from ICE detention centers. There are no details as to where they went upon their release or transfer.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has increasingly relied on alternatives to detention — such as the bracelets and traceable cellphones — to keep track of undocumented migrants who illegally cross the border and are subsequently released into the U.S.

As of Monday, there were nearly 150,000 migrants enrolled in such programs, according to separate DHS data provided to Axios. The number includes single adults and any family members who are actually provided a tracking device — not any other spouses or children.

The government has managed to more quickly enroll families in these kinds of programs shortly after they cross the border, reducing the need for longer-term housing.
It’s also secured expensive contracts with hotels to use when the intake process cannot get done quickly enough, rather than detention centers. DHS will continue to rely on two such hotels, according to one DHS official familiar.


In order to empty detention centers, DHS is flying illegal migrants deeper into the country away from the southern border. We know they are given hotel rooms to ease overcrowding in shelters. Now detention centers won’t be used at all. The migrants will be issued ankle bracelets or use other electronic tracking methods and released into the United States. Back in May, I wrote about ankle bracelets being replaced by phone apps. Border Patrol agents at that time were no longer issuing notices to appear to those crossing the border, only instructing them to check in with an ICE office when they arrived at their destination. The Biden administration clearly prefers the catch and release method for illegal migrants.

Migrants know that when large groups overwhelm Border Patrol and law enforcement at the southern border, they have a good chance of simply being allowed to stay and move through the area. That happened during the summer months. DHS is finding that some countries are refusing to take their citizens back.

The Border Patrol released tens of thousands of families without so much as a tracking device due to the unusually high numbers in the summer. Border numbers have been declining from a peak earlier this year, but they remain higher than usual for the fall and winter months.

There’s been an influx of migrant adults from farther-flung countries, including nations that make deportations more complicated. It’s one reason why the detention center in Dilley will still be used for single adults.

The number of illegal migrants released into the U.S. is shocking.


Title 42 is still in effect. This allows Border Patrol agents to turn away migrants due to public health concerns. The administration is also under court order to reinstate the Remain in Mexico policy negotiated between the Trump administration and Mexico. Biden vows to continue to fight that order.

What a mess. The Biden administration is looking at European-style reception centers along the southern border. This would transform the way migrants are processed and perhaps curb the large-scale release of migrants into the U.S. This plan is only in its development stage and a long way off. Stay tuned.

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