Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New CAP Brief Outlines How ICE Should Reform the Alternatives to Detention Program
Press Release

RELEASE: New CAP Brief Outlines How ICE Should Reform the Alternatives to Detention Program

Washington, D.C. — In the past year, the Biden administration has worked to reform immigration policies from the Trump administration, including expanding the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program. This program allows undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers to be released and monitored as they wait for their hearings, as opposed to staying in detention centers. 

A new report from the Center for American Progress argues that the administration must reconsider how it implements the program, and that its focus should be on expanding community-based alternatives that do not impede immigrants’ and asylum seekers’ civil liberties. In fact, the expansion calls into question how costly it is to enroll people who are not threats to public safety and are already likely to show up for their court hearings. 

Current ATD practices include being electronically monitored by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through ankle monitors and invasive facial recognition technologies, such as the SmartLINK smartphone application, that restrict mobility and have been proved unreliable. CAP found that such technologies threaten the security of immigrants and their families, violate their civil liberties, and negatively affect their physical and mental health.  

“SmartLINK’s constant surveillance has caused asylum-seekers and immigrants to modify their behavior out of fear that they may be re-detained,” said Trinh Q. Truong, a research assistant on the Immigration Policy team at CAP. “This negatively affects their personal and family lives, disrupts whether and how they civically engage in their communities, and may even discourage them from accessing essential services.” 

To eliminate the challenges that those enrolled in ATD programs face, the United States must shift from ICE-led programs to community-based organizations and incorporate the work of nonprofits dedicated to providing social and legal resources for immigrants. 

“ATD programming should turn toward humane, community-based case management services that allow immigrants and asylum-seekers to access the help and support they need as they settle their immigration cases, all while effectively promoting compliance with immigration authorities,” Truong said. 

Read:Immigrants and Asylum-Seekers Deserve Humane Alternatives To Detention” by Trinh Q. Truong

For more information on this topic or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at jcusick@americanprogress.org