Biden Administration Doubles Down on Harmful Child Detention as ORR looks to Expand Network of Sites

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, March 17, 2022

Washington, D.C. - A year since the Biden Administration opened dozens of “emergency intake sites” in response to unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the US-Mexico border, at least three emergency intake sites and one “influx” site remain open. Advocates say that these sites that were meant to be temporary are simply child detention by another name. Rather than addressing the systemic issues behind migration and investing in solutions that consider the best interests of children, they say the Biden Administration is doubling down on large-scale child detention with new proposed sites.

In February 2022, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) posted a notice indicating its intent to issue new “sole-source” or direct contracts to keep the infamous Ft. Bliss and Pecos child detention facilities open. In addition, in December, ORR also submitted a request for information (RFI) to potentially expand its network of influx sites.​ These facilities, which are unlicensed and not subject to the same requirements and regulations as other ORR facilities, have a well documented history of neglect and abuse. Including but not limited to: unsanitary conditions, deterioration of the mental health of detained children, and even sexual misconduct by staff at several sites. 

Immigrant rights advocates demand the Biden administration invest in solutions that consider the best interests of children, including:

  • Establishing a safe and rapid process for keeping children together with trusted non parental caregivers at the border,
  • Improving the reunification process to more quickly place children with family or sponsors in the US by working with trusted community-based organizations,
  • Ending dangerous policies like Title 42 that impact families at the border, and
  • Expanding ORR’s network of licensed care facilities for unaccompanied children, with a focus on proactively engaging trusted, community based non-profits to open licensed, small-scale, homelike shelters.

These escalated calls to abandon the use of “emergency intake” and “influx” sites follows a letter delivered to the Biden Administration last year by 180 organizations.

Immigrant rights advocates demanding the Biden Administration end the practice of child detention, said:

“Large scale detention facilities are wholly inappropriate for children of all ages, and inherently harmful for any amount of time, as has been well documented by health professionals and child welfare advocates,” said Liz Castillo, Senior Organizer at Detention Watch Network. “Rather than continuing the failed and dangerous approach of detention that inherently puts people at risk, the administration must end Title 42 and fully restore access to asylum at our borders without the use of detention. Detention is never the answer for anybody.”

“It is inexplicable how unwilling this administration is to treat unaccompanied children with dignity and offer them a safe place to stay before they are reunited with loved ones in this country,” said Immigrant Legal Resource Center Staff Attorney Rachel Prandini. “In January the ILRC submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security demanding that ORR shift its model away from large-scale detention facilities to small, home or home-like settings when children cannot be immediately reunited with family. The administration must stop repeating past mistakes and instead be bold in its vision to reimagine and reinvent how we receive and welcome immigrant children.”

"Detention has and will continue to be an unnecessary and cruel policy choice. Over a year into the Biden administration, President Biden continues to expand detention and deny millions their humanity,” said Cynthia Garcia, United We Dream’s National Campaigns Manager for Community Protection. “Right now, children and youth are suffering inside ‘influx’ facilities and ‘emergency intake’ sites that separate them from their loved ones and fail in providing the care and resources that every person, and every child, deserves. The Biden administration must put an end to all forms of detention, end Title 42, and prioritize investing in a welcoming system that is aligned with our values of racial justice, community care, and humanity and dignity for all."


Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition building power through collective advocacy, grassroots organizing, and strategic communications to abolish immigration detention in the United States. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level. Visit Follow on Twitter @DetentionWatch.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policy makers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training & technical assistance, and policy development & advocacy, the ILRC works to protect and defend the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities. 

United We Dream (UWD) is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, a powerful network made up of over 800,000 members, over 100 local groups and a reach of over 5 million per month. UWD’s vision is to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement of young people who organize and advocate at the local and national levels for the dignity and justice of immigrants and communities of color in the United States.