The administration should end Title 42 without relying on immigration detention and surveillance

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, May 8, 2023

Washington, DC – This week, the Biden administration will finally end Title 42, a racist border closure and expulsion policy that targeted immigrants seeking safety and forced them into dangerous conditions under the guise of public health. As the harmful policy ends, advocates are sounding the alarm that the administration must end Title 42 without relying on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immigration detention and surveillance. 

“Title 42 should never have been implemented in the first place, and the Biden administration’s continuation of the policy for over two years has been shameful,” said Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network. “Now that it is finally ending this week, we are again making it clear: The administration must end Title 42 without relying on immigration detention and surveillance and restore access to our borders so people can seek safety and opportunity with dignity and respect.” 

Many Americans are shocked to learn that thousands of immigrants and people seeking asylum in the U.S. are incarcerated in immigration detention, deprived of their liberty, separated from their families and loved ones, and denied access to basic hygiene and medical attention. When Biden took office the number of people locked up in detention was the lowest it's been in 20 years with 15,415 people detained due to Title 42 and Trump’s expanded use of fast-tracked deportations, banning people from seeking asylum. While the reduction was not a reflection of positive policy reforms rooted in shared values of dignity and freedom, it did underscore the arbitrary nature of detention and why the system is unnecessary. 

“We do not need detention – full stop. Our laws and policies do not need to rely on locking people up, separating families and excluding people from seeking safety and opportunity. Everyone, including migrants, deserve to feel safe, whether moving to a new place, protesting for their freedom, or waiting at a bus stop,” said Shah. “The number of people in detention has been and will always be an arbitrary marker of a system rooted in racism and perverse financial incentives to profit off of people behind bars. We will continue to closely monitor the amount of people in ICE custody as Title 42 ends, while resolutely demanding people be released from detention immediately.”

ICE currently detains approximately 25,500 people per day in county jails, for-profit prisons, and federal facilities across the country, costing taxpayers $2.9 billion in 2023. The vast majority of immigrants, including people seeking asylum, already have ties in the U.S.—people to care for and help them as they pursue their immigration case. For those without support structures in place, community groups and advocates in the border region have been coordinating resources to welcome migrants arriving to the U.S. for years. 

“People navigating their immigration case should be able to do so with their families and loved ones — not behind bars in immigration detention. The system simply does not need to exist,” added Shah. “We will not be fooled by the right wing’s attempts to divide us based on what we look like and where we come from by promoting fear and demonizing migrants. With the end of Title 42, the number of people in detention should only trend down: Congress must reduce ICE’s budget,  and the administration must take steps to end the immigration detention system in its entirety.” 


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.