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Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (ACFRC) Passes Recommendations to End Family Detention

On Friday, Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission joined fellow members of the Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (ACFRC) in a public meeting at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) to discuss recommended reforms to the family detention program. The Committee voted to pass the recommendations to avoid family detention and mitigate the physical, social, familial, and psychological consequences of current detention practices.

The unanimous passage of these recommendations by the ACFRC underscores the pressing need for radical reform at the border. Prior to Friday’s meeting, the Committee expressed concern over lack of transparency and with the overall current use and conditions of family detention and made recommendations for alternative detention practices.

Brané responded to the passage of the Committee’s recommendations with the following statement:

“The findings and recommendations made by the committee demonstrate clearly the problematic nature of family detention. The administration should follow the advice of this expert committee, called together by Secretary Johnson himself to provide their expert advice. Families seeking asylum at the border should be treated humanely and with respect. They should not be detained in penal facilities but instead should be processed and released with the information and support necessary to ensure that they have access to protection and due process in the manner that lives up to our nation's values and standards.”

The Women’s Refugee Commission firmly believes that the use of family detention centers is neither appropriate nor necessary, and proposed a number of reforms to the existing system of locking up and separating children and families at the border.

Dr. Dora Schriro, a WRC Commissioner and a Member of DHS’ Advisory Committee and co-author of its Report responded to the results of Friday’s gathering with the following statement:

“Our Report contained over 150 recommendations, most notably, that DHS discontinue the general use of family detention. Most of the moms and dads and their children are seeking asylum. They have made dangerous journeys in search of safety in the U.S. and have presented themselves lawfully upon their arrival. The Committee strove to incorporate both the letter and the spirit of case law and the fields’ best practices in all of its proposals with recommendations that offered a template for reform.”

Dr. Benard P. Dreyer, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics which was represented on the ACFRC, issued the following statement:

“As a pediatrician, I am concerned that the detainment of children and families in these facilities places them at risk of developmental and mental health problems, which can have long-term implications for a child’s health. These are scared, vulnerable children, and they deserve our compassion and our help. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the health, well-being, and safety of children should be prioritized in all immigration proceedings, and families should not be separated. A home environment is best for children. We urge the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to immediately transition families out of detention centers and into the environments best suited for children’s health and well-being.”

The Committee discussion on Friday touched on subtopics such as mental health, education, and language services, all elements of family detention that have come under intense criticism and scrutiny from advocates. The Women’s Refugee Commission urges the administration to adhere to the recommendations provided by this expert committee and seek out more just detention practices.