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Community-Based Programs Offer a True Alternative for Asylum-Seekers

Community-based programs for immigrants and asylum-seekers remain grossly underfunded despite a desperate need for their services, especially as the US government drags its feet on implementing any such program on the federal level. In 2017, the Trump administration shut down the Family Case Management Program, despite over 99% of the asylum-seekers complying with their immigration hearings and appointments with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, costing a fraction of detention. So far, the Biden administration has floated a new case management pilot program (CMPP) for which Congress has appropriated funds, but the program has not yet taken off the ground.

The US government continues to rely on this racist approach while more humane and less expensive policies are available. The now-shuttered Family Case Management Program yielded almost total compliance of its participants while costing approximately $38 per day per family—a sharp contrast with the nearly $800 per day to keep a family in detention. A Women’s Refugee Commission analysis concluded that the program—which served 952 families and over 2,000 total participants—could easily grow case management alternatives while reducing costly and harmful detention capacity: “The only serious constraint on the scalability of case management alternatives is political will.”