A group of 89 organizations that advocate for the rights of immigrants, people seeking protection, and refugees are calling on the Biden administration to ensure a proposed new program intended to help migrants navigate the U.S. legal system will not be managed by the same agency charged with detaining and deporting them.
The organizations responded to a request for information (RFI) issued last month by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for a proposed National Case Management Program. In its RFI, ICE states that the agency is seeking partners to “establish a program for family units and individuals to provide case management services, ensure participants are aware of their legal rights and obligations, and connect participants with appropriate community services.”
In their RFI response, advocates “wholeheartedly endorse the concept of providing opt-in community-based support services to assist those in the immigration process to successfully navigate that process while finding stability in the community for themselves and their families.” However, those who have represented immigrants enrolled in prior iterations of the program say that ICE is incapable of adequately managing a case-management program: “Evidence and recognized best practices suggest an inherent conflict of interest in having services intended to help an individual or family successfully navigate the immigration process be controlled and funded by the agency also prosecuting them and seeking their deportation.”
Continuing the practice of housing case-management services under ICE may mean that fewer qualified organizations want the job, the organizations explain in their RFI response. A recent survey found that 87 percent of the more than 300 nonprofit offices that responded said they would consider state or local funding to expand their services, yet only 30 percent of organizations surveyed said they would consider ICE funding for community support services.
In the RFI response, advocates ask the Biden administration to re-issue a request for information outside of ICE and the Department of Homeland Security. The groups offer additional recommendations for the administration as it reimagines the case-management model, including making the program optional for immigrants and families navigating the immigration system rather than mandatory; ending the use of burdensome surveillance systems in favor of holistic services that are responsive to individuals’ needs; and providing adequate funding for legal service organizations to respond to referrals from the program.
Tara Tidwell Cullen, NIJC, (312) 833-2967, firstname.lastname@example.org
Meredith MacKenzie,Human Rights First, (202) 412-4270, email@example.com