Human Rights First opposes Biden’s proposal to detain asylum seekers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following reports in yesterday’s New York Times that the Biden administration is considering detaining immigrant and asylum-seeking families who cross the border, Human Rights First urges the Biden administration to reject this horrific policy and other rights-abusing policies like its proposed asylum ban.

“As a candidate, President Biden promised not to detain families and his administration rightly stopped subjecting families to immigration detention,” said Eleanor Acer, Human Rights First’s Senior Director for Refugee Protection. “As it has in the past, sending families to immigration jails would violate human rights, waste government resources, cause disorder, and inflict harm, suffering, and trauma on children and families. Instead of jailing and banning people seeking asylum, the Biden administration should ensure access to asylum and welcome people seeking refuge in this country.”

Human Rights First recommends that rather than detaining asylum seekers and imposing asylum bans:

  • The Biden administration should work with Congress to redouble U.S. support to strengthen refugee-hosting capacities in other countries.
  • Build and improve upon its efforts to provide parole and other safe migration pathways for some people from these countries.
  • Uphold asylum and refugee law at home, swiftly parole people seeking refuge, and welcome them in U.S. communities as they await asylum adjudications, employing community-based case programs as needed.

Human Rights First issued multiple reports documenting the harms resulting from family detention policies, noting that short periods of detention are “associated with negative health outcomes and potential long-term health and developmental consequences.” Last year, the organization issued a report documenting the harms caused by the Biden administration’s detention of adult asylum seekers.

In a letter to DHS, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that “detention or incarceration itself is associated with poorer health outcomes, higher rates of psychological distress, and suicidality, making the situation worse for already vulnerable women and children.”  Even an ICE advisory committee concluded that family detention should be discontinued generally, concluding that the policy was inappropriate, unnecessary, or not in the children’s best interests.


Published on March 7, 2023


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