- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) held an event Thursday with an “abolish ICE” activist and others who made clear to federal officials that they want the agency to move away from surveillance of illegal immigrants, according to an internal document and a source with knowledge of what was said in the meeting who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- The event focused on ICE’s “Alternatives to Detention” program, which the agency implemented in 2004 to monitor illegal immigrants released from detention using tracking technology, with some of the event’s panelists urging the federal government to move away from using surveillance in detention programs, the source familiar with the matter told the DCNF.
- “At this point it is not surprising that ICE would have someone like this influencing policy — the current administration is trying to abolish it from within. The end goal for them isn’t only pivoting away from traditional detention and a handful of effective alternatives, but to release illegal aliens without any tracking or monitoring at all,” Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) Communications and Government Relations Director RJ Hauman told the DCNF.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) held a private event Thursday with a panelist that pushed to abolish the agency, along with others against immigration detention that strongly criticized immigration enforcement during the meeting, according to an internal document and a source with knowledge of what occurred in the meeting who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation.
ICE used the event “to share ideas and inform future concepts” on the “Alternatives to Detention” program, which the agency implemented in 2004 to monitor illegal immigrants released into the country with trackers like ankle bracelets and cell phones as they await court proceedings. During the discussion, the activists criticized the monitoring of illegal immigrants, the source with knowledge, who was not authorized to speak publicly, told the DCNF.
One event panelist, Peter Markowitz, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University and director of the school’s Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic, once created his own “blueprint” to “allow us to abolish ICE.”
“ICE has failed by every measure. It has brutalized communities, wasted billions of dollars, and failed to increase compliance with immigration laws. The four pillars set forth above provide a blueprint for how a radically new vision for immigration enforcement could increase compliance while simultaneously reducing the human and fiscal costs of enforcement. This blueprint would allow us to abolish ICE and to create an effective and humane enforcement system without the need for any dedicated agency of immigration police,” Markowitz wrote in a 2019 piece for the Yale Law Journal, arguing that there needs to be a better alternative for the immigration system “that is not dependent on mass detention and deportation.”
Markowitz alluded to a perceived lack of freedom illegal immigrants have under the Alternatives for Detention program, according to the source familiar with the meeting. He also said that relying on “Case Management,” a program run by nonprofits to support illegal immigrants enrolled in “Alternatives to Detention” with mental health support, legal orientation programs and connections to social services, will lead to more enrollees self-reporting their whereabouts.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tasked Church World Service, which has called to abolish ICE, with leading the Case Management Pilot Program.
Church World Service didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The Biden administration is increasingly aligning itself with anti-ICE groups, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a conservative immigration reform group, Communications and Government Relations Director RJ Hauman told the DCNF.
“At this point it is not surprising that ICE would have someone like this influencing policy — the current administration is trying to abolish it from within. The end goal for them isn’t only pivoting away from traditional detention and a handful of effective alternatives, but to release illegal aliens without any tracking or monitoring at all,” Hauman said.
Other panelists at the ICE event made clear that the agency shouldn’t rely on electronic surveillance of illegal immigrants and instead utilize nonprofit organizations for immigration enforcement, the source said.
Thursday’s event featured the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) senior policy and advocacy counsel on immigrants’ rights, Naureen Shah, who has advocated for scaling back ICE detention. The ACLU also has a campaign on its website titled “SHUT DOWN THE ICE DETENTION MACHINE,” which encourages the public to email Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to urge ICE against any new detention contracts.
Shah said during the meeting that electronic monitoring shouldn’t be where ICE initially turns to when releasing illegal aliens and that the agency should instead rely more on case management, according to the source.
Robyn Barnard, Human Rights First associate director and participant at the event, has along with her organization advocated to “abolish immigration detention” entirely, and said during Thursday’s event that surveillance isn’t needed, according to the source.
“We press the U.S. government to end this harmful policy and permit individuals to pursue their claims in the community. Where additional support is determined necessary to ensure an individual’s compliance with immigration proceedings, we urge the government to use community-based case support programs, which are also more cost-effective than detention and much less harmful,” Human Rights First writes on its website.
Rebekah Wolf, Policy Counsel at American Immigration Council, which pushes for “ending immigration detention” through its Immigration Justice Campaign, was also a panelist.
“Our mission is to fight for a U.S. without immigration detention. We do this by bringing together a broad network of volunteers who advocate for due process and justice for immigrants currently in detention – and who advocate to replace the punitive detention system with a humane approach that includes universal legal representation and other community-based support for individuals during their immigration cases,” the Immigration Justice Campaign’s website states.
ICE didn’t respond to a request for comment, only disclosing some details of the ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson’s opening comments at the event in a press release Friday.
“ICE’s ATD program has evolved significantly over the past 18 years, but its primary focus remains the same: ensuring that noncitizens understand their immigration obligations under the appropriate level of supervision specific to their individual case,” Johnson said at the symposium. “Through a series of innovations, we have used the past two decades to build a humane, cost-effective, and community-based case management service — and now, as always, we are looking to our stakeholder partners to aid in the advancement of the program.”
Shah, Wolf, Human Rights First, the ACLU and the American Immigration Council didn’t respond to requests for comment. Markowitz denied making the Alternatives to Detention comments but declined to comment further.
Barnard couldn’t be reached for comment.
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