Former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden told a town hall audience Thursday that the United States does not need migrant detention facilities.
Biden was taking questions in Rockville, S.C., when an attendee asked him for the justification for holding migrants and expanding detention facilities if those facilities could not ensure their safety. She also asked Biden what he would do to help reunite separated families.
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"Close them down," Biden answered, to cheers from the crowd. "By the way, we don’t need them. We found that when we were in office…if you would say ‘you have to report back for a hearing on such-and-such date,' people show up. You don’t have to keep kids in a cage. There should be no justification separating a parent from a child."
Biden was describing the now-defunct "catch-and-release" policy, which some border agents considered a troublesome loophole in immigration enforcement. Trump got rid of it.
Biden specified his plan is to provide legal status for some children, known as Dreamers, brought to the U.S. illegally. His plan also requests Congress create a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants.
"Number one, we legalize the Dreamers. Number two, I would send immediately an amendment to the desk of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, a bill to the desk that said the following: We have to find a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented," Biden said.
In May, images of migrant children sleeping on detention facility floors went viral on Twitter as viewers assumed the photos were recent and a result of President Trump’s policies. The images were taken in 2014 during the Obama administration. Obama officials said the photos only depicted detained children that arrived in the U.S. unaccompanied by an adult. Criticism of the Trump administration's detention facilities continued, and in June, he signed an executive order to end family separation in detention facilities.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported over 76,000 migrants who came into the United States from Mexico in February. That is more than twice the amount of migrants from February 2018. The increased number is due to the growing amount of migrant family groups.