ICE Doubles Down on Taxpayer-Funded Social Services for Illegal Aliens
President Biden began his presidency by announcing a moratorium on removals and amending the immigration enforcement priorities so that fewer people were apprehended and detained. Over the years, his open-border policies have resulted in more than 7 million illegal encounters at our borders, and the non-detained docket grew out of control from 3.26 million in 2020 to 5.7 million today. As advocates continue to demand an end to immigration enforcement, the Biden Administration is adopting even more extreme policies, attempting to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by turning the agency into a welfare and social services provider.
As ICE noted in a 2020 draft internal report intended for Congress, the best way to enforce our immigration laws is through detention. In that report, the agency explained, “The only effective means of ensuring compliance with a court order, to include an individual’s departure from the United States at the end of their immigration proceedings (if ordered removed by an immigration judge), is through the use of detention.”
FAIR agrees that detention is most effective in ensuring compliance with our immigration laws and that illegal aliens depart the country when ordered. However, the ATD program, when managed properly, provides an avenue for the government to monitor those it cannot detain when Congress fails to adequately fund detention beds. As the Biden Administration has pushed to cut detention beds – while simultaneously not using available beds and then claiming that it cannot detain illegal aliens due to a lack of detention beds – programs like ATD help to hold the government accountable and keep track of the growing illegal alien population.
In 2004, ICE started to pilot a program to provide electronic monitoring of illegal aliens in the country who could not be detained. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens have been part of the program, and Congress provided billions for the agency to procure monitoring technology in order to complement detention efforts.
However, open-border advocates have railed against the program they worked hard to create. Some say that ankle monitors are intrusive and punitive. In fact, they are very clear in their position against “movement control and surveillance.” Their slogan is “The only alternative to detention is freedom.”
Giving in to anti-ICE and anti-detention advocates, ICE is now rebranding the ATD program and calling it Release and Reporting Management (RRM). According to ICE, this new RRM will bring together electronic management, immigration case management, and community service referrals. According to a recent Request for Information (RFI) from the agency, enhanced and expanded community services “should serve to increase a participant’s compliance with their immigration obligations” and “allow them to successfully participate in their legal proceedings.”
The RFI #3 of 3 focuses on Community Services will focus on services covering legal assistance; psychosocial services; therapeutic services; medical services; food and clothing banks; housing; public transportation information; parental information; education information; and repatriation and reintegration services. It states that, “Services will be individualized to each participant’s needs and may range from basic referrals to intensive direct assistance.”
Further, the RFI suggests that service providers will “develop participant care plans based on the service needs identified during evaluations” and “cultivate relationships/subcontracts with community-based organizations providing housing, psychosocial, educational, legal, and other services.” Service providers will also identify “gaps in provided services and how those needs/gaps would be filled.”
What does this mean for ICE? If the agency is transformed into an agency to aid those who violate our immigration laws, it will no longer serve as a law enforcement agency. It’s like asking the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to start providing therapy to criminals.
As the dedicated men and women of ICE, the Homeland Security Inspector General reports that ICE agents are demoralized, stating in a recent report that due to the border crisis, officers “feel overworked and unable to perform their primary law enforcement mission.” The report discusses the turnover rates and staffing challenges at ICE. Naturally, if the Biden Administration continues down the “release and reporting” path and focuses more on social services for illegal aliens, officers will continue to leave the agency, a move that many anti-ICE advocates will undoubtedly celebrate.
The new proposal caught the eye of former ICE officials, too. According to the Daily Caller, these former officials are “sounding the alarm over a new Biden administration proposal to outsource key immigration enforcement responsibilities and services, which they say could allow the administration to fund activist groups.” Former ICE Chief of Staff Jon Feere said, “Why should DHS or ICE fund legal assistance or ‘intensive direct assistance’ with immigration cases? There are countless immigration law firms and well-funded NGOs that offer these services. This is nothing more than an attempt to siphon taxpayer money from law enforcement and hand it over to anti-enforcement activists.”
The agency has already failed at other attempts to create community-service-style ATD programs. In an effort to fund allied nonprofit organizations with taxpayer money, the Biden Administration established the Case Management Pilot Program and the Young Adult Case Management Program, which has yet to show any results. In fact, the agency had to amend the eligibility requirements for the young adult program to include families because of lackluster participation. Given their poor performance and serious mission derailment, the House of Representatives zeroed out both community service programs in their proposed appropriations bill. Thus, it is unclear that ICE could lawfully follow through with the new program if Congress does not provide specific funds for this purpose.
Congress needs to conduct oversight on this rebranding of ATD as it forces taxpayers to fund services that undermine ICE’s mission and perversely encourage more illegal immigration. Illegal aliens will be receiving more and better benefits than U.S. citizens going through criminal proceedings. And, the effort would be wildly expensive given the millions of illegal aliens in the country and on the non-detained docket. Costs for enforcement will increase, public safety risks will rise, and states and local governments will continue to bear the burden of lax immigration enforcement.