Biden Calls for Shuttering Immigrant-Detention Centers

Joe Biden speaks at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, August 10, 2019. (Gage Skidmore)

Former vice president Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, said Thursday that as president he would shut down immigrant-detention centers at the southern border, calling them unnecessary.

“Close them down,” Biden said to applause at a town-hall forum in South Carolina when asked what he would do to improve the situation surrounding the detention centers. “By the way, we don’t need them.”

Biden promised earlier in the summer not to hold migrant children in detention facilities if he is elected president.

“Under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages, tear-gassing asylum seekers, ripping children from their mothers’ arms — actions that subvert American values and erode our ability to lead on the global stage,” Biden wrote in a June op-ed.

Meanwhile, reports of foul conditions at detention centers in Texas, including overcrowding and children going for extended periods without access to showers or clean clothes, have continued to provide headaches for the Trump administration.

Last week, the administration announced plans for a new rule allowing migrant families to remain in detention for the duration of their immigration proceedings, its latest effort to tighten U.S. immigration policies. A federal court agreement previously required children to be released from detention after 20 days.

“Large numbers of alien families are entering illegally across the southern border, hoping that they will be released into the interior rather than detained during their removal proceedings,” read a joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services announcing the change.

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