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Women’s Refugee Commission Calls for Smart Case Management Alternatives in U.S. Immigration Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Trump administration continues to implement draconian deterrence measures at the U.S. border, and as Congress weighs additional funding and solutions, a new report on the Family Case Management Program (FCMP) released today by the Women’s Refugee Commission shows why smart and improved case management alternatives to detention must be part of the U.S. approach to immigration.

The report, “The Family Case Management Program: Why Case Management Can and Must Be Part of the US Approach to Immigration,” details many of the best practices and lessons learned from the program that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operated from January 2016 to June 2017, when it was ended for political reasons by the Trump administration. It draws from ICE’s own evaluation of the program, as well as from reporting by its primary contracting partner and some of the organizations that subcontracted to implement the program. FCMP supported families seeking protection at the U.S. border through individualized case management, resulting in high compliance rates with immigration requirements, at a tiny fraction of the cost of detention.

“The Family Case Management Program marked the first time in over 15 years that the U.S. government invested financially and politically in an ‘alternative to detention’ model that was informed by international best practices,” said Katharina Obser, Senior Policy Advisor in the Women's Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice program. “It was incredibly successful in helping hundreds of families find stability in their communities, and in achieving compliance with immigration requirements, including removal.”

The program showed a 99.4 percent compliance rate with ICE check-in appointments and a 99.3 percent compliance rate with immigrant court hearings at a cost of $38 per day per family. By contrast, the cost of detaining a family (estimating a family size of 2.5 members) is nearly $800 per day.

Despite its successes, in June of 2017 – just 17 months after it was launched – the Trump administration simultaneously terminated FCMP and began to increase family separations, a practice that ultimately saw more than 3,000 families separated at the border over the next year and a half and which continues today. During the same period, and against the wishes of Congress, costly and harmful immigration detention has grown at an alarming rate, from 34,000 beds to more than 50,000.

WRC’s report shows that a program like FCMP can and should be scaled up, including as part of a comprehensive strategy to respond to families and others seeking protection at the southern border. However, the report also details many of the lessons learned from FCMP and urges any future case management alternatives to be contracted directly to more experienced community-based organizations.

“With critical improvements and expansion, a program like the Family Case Management Program could serve many thousands more, save millions of dollars, and increase efficiency and humanity in an immigration system that desperately needs it,” said Obser. “The only thing standing in its way is the political will to do the right thing.”

The report is available at https://wrc.ms/FCMP_report