Los Angeles Politics

New ICE program will put families seeking asylum under home curfew

Asylum-seeking families who cross the U.S. border without authorization will be subject to GPS monitoring and a curfew and will be deported if they fail an initial asylum screening under a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement program set to take effect soon, an agency official told the Times on Wednesday.

Under the plan, known as Family Expedited Removal Management, migrant families will be directed to appear for an initial asylum screening, known as a credible fear interview, in the cities they are going to. Another new Biden administration policy that limits asylum for those who cross through a third country and do not seek protection there will be applied to them.

If the families fail the screening, ICE will seek to deport the family.

“There are consequences for family units,” said the ICE official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the program before it is unveiled publicly. “If they are not eligible to remain in the U.S., we are going to be moving them toward removal.”

President Biden’s administration is in the midst of preparing for the end of Title 42, which allowed border agents to quickly expel migrants under pandemic-era rules, later this week. Officials have long been worried about the predicted spike in encounters at the border when the three-year-old policy ends.

In the coming days, ICE will place some families who are headed to Newark, Baltimore, Washington and Chicago in the new FERM program. The curfew is expected to run from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. One member of the family will have to wear a GPS monitor, such as an ankle bracelet.

Families who do not show up to the screenings or do not cooperate with ICE to leave the country could be picked up and held at hotels, the ICE official said.

“The intention is that we are going to lean into compliance,” the official said.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration said it was considering all options for families crossing the border, including the potential to hold families in detention centers. In recent weeks, the head of ICE and later Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the government had no plans to bring those detention centers back for families.

“We have no plan to detain families. As I mentioned we will be employing alternatives to detention, including some innovations in that regard, and we will on a case by case basis use enhanced alternatives to detention as warranted,’ he said in a late April news conference.

The Biden administration has increasingly relied on so-called alternatives to detention.

Immigrant advocates and some Democratic politicians have criticized the expansion of the alternative to detention program, saying it is a form of surveillance and is psychologically damaging.

Last year, ICE rolled out a pilot testing a home curfew approach for some migrants.

Before the Biden administration stopped the practice of detaining families, ICE held families in two facilities in Texas. Since then, families have been released into the U.S., and the administration has placed some into a fast-track court process.

Biden tweeted during his presidential campaign in June 2020, “Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately. This is pretty simple, and I can’t believe I have to say it: Families belong together.”

Democratic senators pushed him to not bring back the practice after reports that it was being considered.

“We understand that your Administration faces significant challenges — particularly in light of Congressional failure to pass immigration reform — to manage an influx of asylum seekers arriving at our southern border,” the senators wrote.

“However, the recent past has taught us that family detention is both morally reprehensible and ineffective as an immigration management tool. We look forward to working closely with your Administration on more thoughtful and humane responses to such challenges.”

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Joseph Hernandez

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