Immigration authorities in the United States intend to reduce long-term detention for undocumented immigrant families with children and speed up their processing at the detention centers, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, announced yesterday.
“I have reached the conclusion that we must make substantial changes in our detention practices with respect to families with children,” Johnson declared. “In short, once a family has established eligibility for asylum or other relief under our laws, long-term detention is an inefficient use of our resources and should be discontinued.” A number of Democrats in Congress this week visited two large detention centers set up in 2014 under private operation and many were highly critical of the way in which the refugees are being handled by the Obama administration.
Johnson claims that the new policy will allow a “reasonable and realistic” level of release for families on bond. Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrant families began arriving at the US border from Central America last year, fleeing violence, and the Obama administration started detaining them to try to put off further arrivals.
The detention of these families has become an important issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, with all three candidates for the Democratic nomination openly criticizing the current policies. Johnson says he has told US Citizenship and Immigration Services to carry out interviews with immigrants with regard to their fear of persecution should they be returned home.