Washington – Today, congressional representatives held a press conference urging the Obama Administration to end the practice of detaining children and their mothers, many of whom are fleeing violence and persecution. Responding to advocates’ concerns that detention in prison-like facilities is inappropriate for children and harmful to their development, the Obama Administration had sharply curtailed the use of family detention centers in 2009. Since then, ICE has primarily relied on alternatives to detention for families with children. These approaches also facilitate due process, by eliminating practical obstacles to legal representation. In June 2014, the Administration reversed its child-friendly immigration enforcement policy and resumed detaining children and their families in response to the influx of children and families from Central America seeking refuge in the U.S. A federal class action lawsuit seeks to end the policy, and a U.S. district court judge’s February injunction effectively stayed family detentions, signaling the possibility of a ruling against the government if the Administration does not act first to end the practice. Last week, ICE announced new actions to improve oversight of family detention facilities but did not indicate any intention to stop detaining families.

In September, the bipartisan children’s advocacy organization First Focus urged congressional representatives to push the Administration to end the practice of detaining children. Reacting to today’s press conference, First Focus released the following statement by its president, Bruce Lesley:

“We applaud the lawmakers who stood up for children. They sent the White House a clear message: detention centers are no place for children. Research shows that any time in detention is harmful to a child’s development, and now many of these children have spent most of their lives in detention. Jailing children to deter other children’s parents isn’t just misguided, it’s also dangerous – and early indications are that it’s illegal. We join lawmakers in urging the Administration to end family detention before the courts do.”


First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.firstfocus.org.