Do Family Separation and Detention Deter Immigration?

Publication date: 
July 2018
Do Family Separation and Detention Deter Immigration?

In response to broad public backlash over his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the United States’ southwest border, President Donald Trump signed an executive order in June 2018 that purports to replace family separation with potentially indefinite family detention. Numerous Trump administration officials have supported such policies under the belief that they would deter families from attempting to enter the United States. 

Internal memos from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), however, illustrate that the administration’s family separation policy has not had its intended effect. A new analysis of data from a longer period of time illustrates that family detention has not acted as a deterrent either. Altogether, the data show that both family detention and family separation policies have not deterred families from coming to the United States in the past—and are unlikely to do so in the future.