The Obama administration is launching a new pilot program to provide illegal immigrant families released into the U.S. with social workers who will help them access housing, education, medical services and legal assistance.
“The [Family Case Management Program] will pilot a new alternative to detention initiative that uses case managers to ensure participants comply with immigration obligations while providing access to holistic community based services tailored to the individual families’ needs,” Customs and Immigration Services explained in a notification to stakeholders late last week.
ICE expects the pilot program to enroll some 1,500 families divided among five major metropolitan areas: Baltimore/Washington, DC; Los Angeles; New York City/Newark; Miami; and Chicago.
The new program has been billed as a way to ensure released illegal immigrant families appear for their immigration court dates. Geo Care, LLC, part of of Geo Group Inc. — known for its detention services — has been granted a $11 million contract to operate it, however, according to ICE, local immigration assistance organizations will be “a cornerstone” of the program.
With a December start date, the program began ramping up on September 18.
According to a GOP staffer informed about the program, in addition to aiding illegal immigrant families with accessing pro-bono legal assistance, free medical clinics, public school enrollment, public transportation, and housing — in emergency situations these case workers will drive them to their immigration appointments and hearings.
The stakeholder announcement explains that the program will offer “orientation and education to participants about their rights and responsibilities; Individualized family service plans; Assistance with transportation logistics; Assistance in securing access to housing, education, and medical providers (if needed); Tracking and monitoring of immigration obligations (to include attendance at immigration court hearings); and Safe repatriation and reintegration planning for participants who are returning to their home countries.”
A senate staffer called the program “radically irresponsible.”
“Anyone who doesn’t concede this is going to create an even stronger magnet for illegal immigration to the United States is either clueless or dishonest,” the staffer said.
Speaking to the San Antonio Express-News, ICE’s deputy assistant director for custody programs Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, said the goal is compliance with immigration law but noted, “The face of this program won’t be Geo,” meaning the detention group.
“The face of this program will be the local community organizations that will be shoring up the load, working with these families and ensuring they have success,” he said.