White House won’t weigh in on ‘rumors’ of reinstating migrant family detention

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The White House on Tuesday would not deny that it is considering reinstating a policy of migrant family detention to deter groups from coming to the U.S. border.

“I’m not going to go weigh in on rumors that are out there or conversations that are happening at this time,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “The Department of Homeland Security is certainly continuing to prepare for the eventual lift of Title 42. No decisions have been made. But we’ve been very clear with how the president wants to move forward… by putting forward a comprehensive immigration reform.”

Jean-Pierre was pressed multiple times on whether the administration would rule out using the policy, which was implemented during the Trump administration as part of a broader effort to crack down on the flow of migrants to the southern border.

“I’m not saying it’s being considered … I’m not saying it is not,” Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre reiterated that President Biden’s approach to immigration is focused on expanding legal pathways, increasing border security and making sure the administration’s approach is humane.

The New York Times reported late Monday that the Biden administration is considering bringing back the practice of detaining migrant families who cross the border illegally, though no final decision has been made.

The discussions come in anticipation of the expiration of Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that has allowed U.S. officials to quickly expel migrants.

The Trump administration used the policy of family detention as a deterrent and attempted to detain families, including minors, indefinitely. Those attempts were eventually blocked by the court system.

As a candidate, Biden repeatedly condemned his predecessor for his immigration policies.

Reports that migrant family detention is under consideration drew criticism Tuesday from Democrats.

“Reports in the New York Times that Administration officials may reinstate family detention as an option to deter migrants are deeply concerning,” Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement. “A just, safe, and humane immigration system should not place families in detention. We should not return to the failed policies of the past where families are detained in substandard conditions with long term damage to children.”

Jean-Pierre on Tuesday dismissed comparisons between Biden’s immigration policies and those of the Trump administration. She noted the former president tried to deport Dreamers who were brought to the country illegally as children; separated migrant families; and funneled millions of dollars toward a “useless” wall on the southern border.

“That is not what is happening here,” Jean-Pierre said. “What we saw in this last administration, the administration before us, was a gutting of the administration system.”

Updated at 10:59 p.m.

Tags Joe Biden Karine Jean-Pierre President Joe Biden white house

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