The Obama administration is abandoning its controversial practice of detaining immigrant mothers and children who've established their fear of persecution if returned to their home countries, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson concluded that locking up mothers and children, which can cost $342 per family a day, was not an effective use of his agency's resources. He said family detention centers, which hold more than 2,500 parents and children, will remain open. The announcement came less than 24 hours after a third alleged suicide attempt at one of the facilities, this time by a 38-year-old mother who had been locked up in a Texas facility with her 5-year-old daughter since May.
The administration ramped up its use of family detention facilities after last year's surge of tens of thousands of migrant families fleeing Central America. It operates three family detention centers in Berks County, Pa., and Karnes City and Dilly, Texas. Some detainees have been held for more than a year. The policy of detaining mothers and children has been under fire for months. McClatchy reported allegations of sex abuse and mistreatment at the Berks County facility. Johnson said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldaña has a plan to release on bond families who've shown they have a credible or reasonable fear of persecution in their home countries.