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ICE converting family detention centers to 72-hour processing hubs

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said migrant families don't belong in detention centers. Pool Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said migrant families don't belong in detention centers. Pool Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo

March 6 (UPI) -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a court filing it's transitioning family detention centers to short-term facilities that will release families after no more than 72 hours.

The government agency suggested it is ending family detention with the move outlined in a court filing under the Flores Settlement Agreement in which a federal court oversees standards for the detention and treatment of immigrant children in custody.

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On Thursday the Washington Post reported on Department of Homeland Security draft plans showing the agency, which oversees ICE, was planning to convert immigrant detention facilities to short-term, Ellis Island-style rapid-processing hubs.

When President Joe Biden took office, ICE operated three family detention facilities: two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania.

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By the end of February, according to the filing, all families from the Pennsylvania facility had been released, and as of Friday, 13 families remained in ICE detention, seven of whom were scheduled for release that day, with the other six being scheduled for release Sunday.

The two Texas facilities will become short-term centers, and the Pennsylvania site will no longer house families, according to the filing.

The Obama administration began the family detention policy in 2014 and the Trump administration sought to expand it by holding families more than 20 days, the legal limit imposed by a judge's ruling on the Flores case.

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told NBC News on Thursday that ICE detention is "not where a family belongs."

Edna Yang, co-executive director of American Gateways, an immigration legal aid organization in Texas, echoed that sentiment and applauded the change: "They shouldn't be detained, and they should be given the opportunity to go before the immigration judge and be released in the community and not held like prisoners."

Russell Hott, a senior official with ICE, wrote in an internal email that the shift in use to family detention centers "may not be sufficient to keep pace with apprehensions" and that arrivals by unaccompanied minors and families "are expected to be the highest numbers observed in over 20 years."

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