A controversial family detention center in Texas will be converted back to an adult male facility, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Thursday in the latest signal that the Obama administration will reduce the detention of women and children before the president’s time in office ends.
During a House appropriations committee hearing Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard asked the ICE director, Sarah Saldaña: “is it possible that ICE will stop using Karnes and Dilley [another facility] for families in [fiscal year 2017]?”
“Well, we’re pretty much there on the decision on Karnes,” Saldaña responded. “We are probably going to convert that into – our plans are to convert that into – an adult male, perhaps with children, facility. Not a family facility as it is now, with largely women.”
Saldaña’s announcement comes as Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 cut his request for funding for family detention to 960 beds, about half the 1,800 requested the year before.
The reduction is a positive step, but it’s not enough, said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which opposes private prisons.
“The question for the administration is will it go far enough for family detention not to be one of their legacy issues?” Libal asked. “Or will Obama go down as creating the largest trend in detaining families since Japanese internment?”