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'I am deeply troubled': Rep. Adriano Espaillat on reports of Biden soon reinstating migrant family detention

Recent decisions on the border from the Biden administration have riled Democratic colleagues who say Trump-era policies should remain in the past.

(Getty Images)

Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York, the nation's lone Black Catholic congressperson, has spoken out on reports that President Joe Biden may soon reinstate Trump-era family detention policies.

The formerly undocumented Afro-Dominican legislator issued a statement on Tuesday calling the plans “a reversal of the progress that we have made since the previous administration.”

“America is a nation of immigrants, and yet, our system to support immigrants and their families remains broken… As we work to address this crisis, we must move forward to implement solutions that treat families with humanity,” he said.

“I encourage the administration to reconsider these actions and will continue my work with my Democratic colleagues to fight for meaningful immigration reform for asylum seekers and the families here in our nation.”

Statement from Representative Adriano Espaillat on Reports of Reinstating Migrant Family Detention | Rep. Adriano Espaillat
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Deputy Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), issued the following statement in response to reports that the Biden administration is considering reinstating the practice of detaining migrant families at the border.

Espaillat is one of several Democratic legislators reacting with shock to the new plan from Biden, who had indicated migrant family detention was not his current plan of action to address the increased amount of migrants making their way to the United States.

Various political and humanitarian crises in Latin America had driven their numbers at the southern border up to their highest in over two decades, according to data published in January from Pew Research.

That same month, Biden said migrants from certain counties would be sent to Mexico if they arrived in the U.S. illegally. In February, the administration announced—like former president Donald Trump—that it would deny asylum to migrants who did not follow the proper processes before arriving stateside. These actions brought harsh critique from many of Biden’s fellow Democrats, including Espaillat.

In addition, the Biden administration had previously continued the family detention policies of Trump and similar efforts under Barack Obama. In late 2021, however, Biden reportedly ceased migrant family detention amid upticks in the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Adult migrants traveling alone were still subject to detention when crossing the border illegally.

Roughly a year later, various Republican governors in southern border states began transporting incoming migrants from their cities to blue-leaning areas where support for immigration is strong—in an attempt to force Biden’s hand. The new reports suggest the GOP may have gotten its way.

Throughout the back and forth, many Democrats in Congress have repeatedly stated their support for migrants struggling to make it to the U.S. border. One of the loudest groups pushing back has been the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, of which Espaillat is deputy chair.

The CHC met on Tuesday with Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas to express disdain for Biden’s recent moves on immigration and the report that family detention might reactivate. Espaillat later called the meeting “productive.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration itself has remained mum on the family detention report, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre refusing to confirm or deny what she called “rumors” about whether a policy reversal is truly incoming.

“I’m not saying that it is, I’m not saying that it’s not,” she told the Associated Press.

Jean-Pierre also sought to distance the current Biden policies on immigration from those under Trump, a Republican who is currently seeking to return to the presidency with a run in the 2024 election.

″A lot of people have compared what the president is doing [to] what Trump did,” she said.

“That is not what is happening here.”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger and a seminarian with the Josephites.

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