The article from the American Immigration Council provides an extensive overview of the alternatives to immigration detention (ATDs) in the United States. The U.S. has the authority to detain migrants and those seeking humanitarian protection, but this practice, despite its civil nature, often resembles criminal detention in its infrastructure and operation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) states that the purpose of detention is to protect the community from potential safety risks and ensure compliance with immigration proceedings. However, there’s a growing recognition that detention is fundamentally harmful, particularly to immigrants of color, and that more humane and cost-effective alternatives exist​​.

ATDs encompass a range of programs, from minimal governmental intervention to extensive surveillance and liberty restrictions. These include release on recognizance, conditional release, bail/bond release, community-based supervised release or case management, residence at specific accommodation centers, electronic tagging or tracking, and home curfews​​. However, the U.S. government’s approach to ATDs has been criticized for focusing more on surveillance and movement restrictions rather than reducing detention use overall​​.

The Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP), an early ATD initiative by ICE, relies on various monitoring methods, including electronic ankle monitors, but has faced criticism for its management and the physical and emotional harm caused by devices like ankle monitors​​. Other programs like the Electronic Monitoring Device program (EMD) and Extended Case Management Services (ECMS) also emphasize surveillance and compliance​​.

Research suggests that other factors, such as legal representation, have a greater impact on ensuring court appearance and compliance for non-detained individuals. This contrasts with the government’s focus on enforcement and removal expedience in ATD policies​​. Moreover, the increase in ATD enrollment hasn’t corresponded with a significant decrease in detention numbers, leading to critiques that these programs often serve more as alternatives to release without conditions, rather than true alternatives to detention​​.

In contrast, international best practices for ATDs emphasize community-based programs that are less focused on surveillance. These programs, operated by organizations closely tied to the community, provide wraparound social and legal services to facilitate meaningful participation in immigration proceedings. These include services like legal aid and housing, fostering trust between clients and the organizations rather than prioritizing compliance reporting​​.

The Case Management Pilot Program (CMPP), funded by Congress in 2020, marks a shift towards this approach. Managed by a board comprising non-profit organizations and the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, CMPP funds non-profits or local governments to provide a range of services to individuals in removal proceedings​​.

Other successful models, like the Family Case Management Program (FCMP), have demonstrated the effectiveness of case management-based ATDs. However, their success is often hindered by insufficient funding and the need for less cooperation with ICE to build trust with clients​​​​.

The COVID-19 pandemic also revealed potential for expanding ATDs, as many countries released significant numbers of people from detention to avoid the spread of the virus in close quarters, demonstrating the feasibility of community-based alternatives​​.

In conclusion, while the U.S. has shown a commitment to case management models, it needs to heed the advice of non-profit, non-governmental organizations on best practices for implementing truly effective and humane ATDs, aligning with international standards​​.

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