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*Drawing by Marcela Castro from the video Drawings by Themselves: Portraits of America


On July 13, 2015, the US government announced that it would begin releasing families from immigration detention who had demonstrated credible fear of returning to their home countries. The announcement comes after various proposals to reduce family detention, presented by the Department of State in May and June. But, despite such announcements–which include proposals that range from release on bond to providing information to families about their rights and responsibilities–many IDC members and partners have responded that the ultimate solution still must be a complete and immediate end to family detention.

The “announcement signals a move away from mere rhetoric and toward actual release for some detained mothers and children, but even if implemented fully, fails to truly address the problem … It is time to close all family detention centers…” – Silky Shah, Detention Watch Network


“Even with these changes, we are still not where we need to be. Our government still will be detaining children and mothers when we already know that it is highly inappropriate and traumatic to do so for any length of time.” –Victor Nieblas Pradis, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) highlighted that almost 90% of detained families have passed their credible fear screening and in fact, are asylum seekers fleeing violence in their home countries, which should lead to their release. Furthermore, as Human Rights Watch points out, the government has not said what will happen with families who have not requested asylum and are being held in detention indefinitely.

“The US never should have locked up families indefinitely, much less those who are seeking asylum.” – Antonio Ginatta, Human Rights Watch

Civil society organizations are deeply disappointed that the government’s plan relies on the continued implementation of family detention, especially when there are alternatives to detention that are more effective and allow families to live freely in the community while they await the resolution of their cases.

“The announcement still envisions a system where women and children are incarcerated and must pay bonds to be released even after demonstrating a fear of persecution in their home countries…Women and children who pose no threat to the the United States should be released to family members or into community support programs.” – Michelle Brané, Womens Refugee Commission

While the government’s announcements are without a doubt necessary and could potentially serve as a first step to ending detention, IDC members and partners believe that the only durable, humane solution is to end immigration detention of families once and for all.


Read the Press Releases from IDC Members and Partners:

Press Releases in response to released families – 13 July 2015

Detention Watch Network Encouraged to See Families Released, But Concerned with Dehumanizing Alternatives Proposed

In Response to Growing Pressure to End the Inhumane Practice of Family Detention, Department of Homeland Security Announces More Policy Changes – We Belong Together

Release of Refugee Families is Long-Overdue Step – American Immigration Lawyers Association

LIRS welcomes announcement that immigrant families seeking refuge in the United States will not be detained

Finally, ICE relents and some women and children are released from long-term family detention – Grassroots Leadership calls on ICE to close three family detention camps

DHS Announcement to Prioritize Release for Asylum-Seeking Families is a Positive Step, But Family Detention Needs to End – National Immigrant Justice Center

DHS Releases Detained Asylum-Seeking Families – Women’s Refugee Commission

ICE’s New Announcement on Release of Detained Families is Long Overdue: A Victory in the Face of Overwhelming Abuses Against Refugees – Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)

DHS to Release Women and Children Seeking Asylum from Detention – Human Rights First

ICE Releases of More Refugee Families from Detention Are ‘Starter Steps’: Libertad for mothers, children awaiting asylum hearings – Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)

Stated Clerk thanks those working to change U.S. policies on family detention – Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

Press Releases in response to government proposals to reduce family detention – 24 June 2015

US: First Step to End Family Immigration Detention – Human Rights Watch

Secretary Johnson Announces Changes to Family Detention System: We Belong Together Maintains Only Real Solution is to End Family Detention Altogether

AILA: DHS Plans on Family Detention Are a Step Forward

AILA: ICE Statement on Family Detention Ignores the Tragic Reality

LIRS Statement regarding proposed DHS reforms to family immigration detention policies

DHS Announcement on Family Detention- Still Not in Compliance with U.S. Law – Women’s Refugee Commission

US Shift on Detention is Step in Right Direction: UNHCR

DHS Secretary admits that family detention is flawed, yet plans to continue inhumane policy – Grassroots Leadership

Rights agency responds to DHS plans to improve family detention process: ‘palliative care, not a treatment or cure’ –  Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)