At an April 29 rally President Biden vowed that private prisons and detention centers “should not exist,” echoing promises by his Democratic rivals in 2019, including now-Vice President Kamala Harris.
In 2019, their focus was on reports of six deaths of migrant children held in custody by the Trump administration.
In 2021, the Biden administration still relies on some private facilities to cope with a renewed surge in migrant children. To comply with the law, it has had to increase capacity to move unaccompanied minors quickly out of detention centers supervised by border authorities into less restrictive shelters under the Health and Human Services Department, where minors wait while HHS secures long-term placements with relatives or foster care providers.
In May, HHS awarded more than $2 billion in contracts to two private companies and a nonprofit to build and manage more facilities.