kids at detention center

Immigration officials to begin freeing more mothers and children from detention

In a small but heartening step toward ending the unjust practice of family detention in the US, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has announced that it’s releasing hundreds of migrant mothers and their children from detention centers. 

Federal officials have begun releasing hundreds of detained mothers and children from the nation’s family detention centers as part of plans to end long-term detention of migrant families.

Nearly two hundred detained parents and children were released over the weekend, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Lawyers and advocates report at least another hundred mothers and children were dropped off at bus stations in south Texas last week. Many of the mothers are being released with electronic monitoring ankle bracelets.

“Going forward, ICE will generally not detain mothers with children, absent a threat to public safety or national security, if they have received a positive finding for credible or reasonable fear,” ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said in a statement Monday night.

However, while the number of families at these facilities is expected to drop significantly, officials said that intake would continue — so this is not the end of family detention. It remains US immigration policy to lock up women and kids seeking asylum after fleeing horrific violence in facilities run by private prison companies. Additionally, while being released with a monitoring device is obviously preferable to detention, it’s still uncalled for.

As McClatchy DC reports, “The release comes as the administration has been under intense political and media scrutiny for locking up mothers and children while their asylum cases make their way through the court system.” That’s thanks to the advocates, and the mothers themselves who staged hunger strikes, who forced the issue into the national spotlight.

Header image credit: Associated Press

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation