One year later, Biden has failed to live up to his campaign promises and has dramatically increased immigration detention amid the COVID-19 pandemic

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, January 20, 2022

Washington, DC — Today, the Biden administration marks one year in office. Detention Watch Network, along with other immigration advocates, are disappointed and frustrated that Biden broke his campaign promises to undo the criminalization and punitive nature of the immigration detention system. Rather than a reduction in detention as promised along the campaign trail that was reaffirmed by Biden as recently as April of 2021, the administration has instead embarked on a troubling pattern of detention expansion and has embraced Trump-era anti-immigrant policies, including the harmful “Remain in Mexico” program and Title 42 border closure and expulsions.

The administration’s decisions have occurred amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which disproportionately impacts people in detention, jails and prisons. The administration has actively opposed attempts to provide COVID-19 protections to detained immigrants, disregarding the safety of detained individuals and guidance by public health experts. 

Reflecting on the past year, Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network offered the following statement:

“We are beyond disappointment – people across the country are angry. Biden has not only failed to live up to his campaign promises, he has embraced Trump-era policies to be his own, resulting in continued harm, trauma, and even death in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) detention system.

Detention Watch Network has evaluated the administration’s actions against his rhetoric in the newly released, Biden’s First Year: Rhetoric versus Reality Scorecard. Here are a couple of examples:

“The continuation of harmful Trump-era policies and shameful inaction to reduce the detention system has made it clear that Biden is not accountable to immigrant communities. These are no longer just ‘Trump policies,’ these are ‘Biden policies,’ where the administration bears full responsibility for the suffering they’ve inflicted on thousands of individuals in detention and the loved ones and families that are fighting to bring them home and deeply feel their absence.”

“Regardless of where someone is from or why they migrate to the United States, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Detention is inhumane, morally and financially costly, and completely unnecessary. As we head into the second year of the Biden administration, we remain steadfast in our demand to #FreeThemAll and end the use of immigration detention in its entirety.”

Read Biden’s First Year: Rhetoric versus Reality Scorecard


Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit Follow on Twitter @DetentionWatch.