The Department of Homeland Security announced a new pilot program Tuesday to pay cities, counties and nongovernmental organizations to offer legal services, “cultural orientation,” medical screening and other assistance for illegal immigrants who have been caught and released and are awaiting deportation hearings.
The new “Case Management Pilot Program” was mandated by Congress, the department said, and will be used for migrants who are put into the Alternatives to Detention program, which releases migrants on ankle bracelets, or requires them to make regular check-ins.
The alternatives and case management programs are both favorites with immigrant-rights activists, who argue few, if any, illegal immigrants need to be detained while they await their immigration court proceedings.
“We are excited to partner with nonprofit organizations and local governments on this pilot program to improve services for noncitizens in immigration proceedings,” said Katherine Culliton-González, who will serve as chair of a new national board for the pilot program.
A previous case management pilot program begun in the Obama administration has been highly touted by immigration activists, who said it had a high rate of compliance for showing up at initial hearings and made the process of deportation easier for those who lost their cases.
The Trump administration ended the program, saying the compliance rate dropped dramatically when it came time to actually be deported, making the program less cost-efficient than the regular detention process.
The new Biden administration program will make money available to local governments and outside organizations for mental health services, human and sex trafficking screening, legal orientation programs, cultural orientation programs and preparations for return for those migrants who are ordered deported.