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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will soon close a family case management program for asylum-seekers that, as of April 19, housed more than 630 families. According to Sarah Rodriguez, an ICE spokesperson, the program caters to “special populations, such as pregnant women, nursing mothers, [and] families with very young children.” It is currently considered the least-restrictive alternative for asylum-seekers who come to the U.S. illegally. The more common scenario is for immigrants and refugees to be held in prison-like detention centers as they wait for their cases to be heard in the immigration court system.
In 2014, the Obama administration chose to expand the number of detention facilities in response to the Central American Refugee Crisis, which prompted tens of thousands of women and children to seek asylum in the U.S. These large-scale detention rates continue today, with around 400,000 immigrants being held in detention facilities each year—around 80 times the amount held in 1994.
While detention has long been the government’s preferred policy, experts still question the decision to shut down a more humane alternative. According to Michelle Brané, the director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, the decision to close the family case management program is unwarranted.
This is a clear attempt to punish mothers who are trying to save their children’s lives by seeking protection in the United States,” Brané told the AP. “I think it’s crazy they are shutting down a program that is so incredibly successful.”