July 5, 2018


Studies: Mass Detention of Migrant Families is Unnecessary, Inefficient (Eleanor Acer, July 5, 2018, jUST sECURITY)

At Human Rights First, we provide pro bono legal representation to refugees seeking asylum. From this experience, we know that asylum seekers who are afforded accurate information and legal representation overwhelmingly appear for their immigration removal hearings. Recent government data, published by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), reveals that 97% of represented mothers whose cases were initiated in 2014 were in compliance with their immigration court hearing obligations three years later, as Human Rights First detailed in a February 2018 analysis of that data. A new comprehensive statistical study, conducted by Professor Ingrid Eagly and colleagues, reveals that 86 percent of families appeared for their hearings and 96 percent of families seeking asylum attended all their hearings. With legal representation, 97 percent of asylum seekers appeared for all hearings.

In cases where people need some appearance support, there are other options, as my colleague Robyn Barnard and I pointed out in our summary of the Top 10 Reasons Family Incarceration is Not a Solution. For instance, ICE operated a Family Case Management Program that resulted in 99% attendance for ICE check-ins and appointments, as well as 100% attendance at court hearings. The program used professional social workers to provide education about participants' responsibilities, individualized family service plans and other case management support. Launched by ICE, the program was operated by GEO Group, the private prison company which also operates many immigration detention facilities. Despite the program's successes, ICE mysteriously canceled the program last year.

Faith-based groups have also initiated case management programs that are community-based. For example, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) piloted small, privately-funded community-based models, showing promising initial results with program compliance rates of 96 to 97 percent.

DHS's own advisory committee recommended expansion of community-based case management programs rather than family detention. Concluding that detention is "never in the best interest of children," the committee recommended DHS "discontinue the general use of family detention, reserving it for rare cases when necessary following an individualized assessment of the need to detain because of danger or flight risk that cannot be mitigated by conditions of release." The DHS Advisory Committee specifically recommended that "[i]f necessary to mitigate individualized flight risk or danger, every effort should be made to place families in community-based case-management programs that offer medical, mental health, legal, social, and other services and supports, so that families may live together within a community."

As the CATO Institute's Alex Nowrasteh explains, another ICE program, an intensive supervision program operated by BI Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary the GEO Group Inc, resulted in a 99.6% appearance rate at immigration court hearings, and a 91.1% compliance rate with court orders, meaning these participants either left the country as ordered or earned legal status. The "full service" program involved both case management and monitoring through the use of technology and visitation, while "technology assisted" programs use only monitoring by technology - including electronic ankle monitors.

Posted by at July 5, 2018 2:00 PM