Returning to Family Detention Would be Cruel, Ineffective, and Counter to the Spirit of Welcome

March 7, 2023

Washington, D.C.—Church World Service today expressed its alarm over reports that the Biden administration is considering the reinstatement of family detention to deter asylum seekers from seeking safety at the U.S. southern border. The practice, which in spirit runs counter to the legal right to seek asylum, is cruel, hurtful, and ineffective as a immigration policy. CWS further notes that any attempt to reinstate this barbaric policy stands in violation of promises made by President Biden on the campaign trail, and betrays the role of the United States as a global leader on migration.

“Family detention—and immigrant detention in DHS custody—is immoral and wrong. Faith communities have long-denounced the cruel practice of family detention that should be viewed as a betrayal of our spirit of welcome. Any effort to restore harmful family detention practices would be a callow political move that serves as a punitive deterrence mechanism that undermines our moral obligations to welcome. This policy would cause direct harm to families and children fleeing horrors and danger,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at CWS. “We call on the Biden administration to refute these reports, make a commitment to uphold our values of compassion and welcome, and dedicate resources to protect the vulnerable, not persecute them.” 

Immigration detention facilities across the country have demonstrated a long and disturbing record of abuse and mistreatment. In addition, family detention has caused significant psychological damage to children, where many show signs of trauma after being detained.

 CWS calls on Congress to urge the administration to end family separation, denounce family detention, fully restore all asylum protections—including for immigrant families and children—reduce funding for immigration detention, and invest in community-based alternatives.

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