Omnibus spending package ups funding for DHS pilot program aiding illegal immigrants
The $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package has increased funding for a Homeland Security case management program that aids illegal immigrants facing deportation — just as it is facing scrutiny from Republicans who have raised questions about how it is being overseen.
The omnibus spending package, which has now passed through both chambers of Congress, includes $20 million for the Alternative to Detention Case Management Pilot Program (CMPP) through to September 2024. The spending bill comes while the U.S. national debt remains well over $31 trillion.
The program, which had first been given $5 million in the FY 2021 DHS Appropriations Act, provides 'voluntary case management and other services' to those in immigration removal proceedings, including mental health services, school enrollment, legal aid, 'cultural orientation programs' and connections to social services — as well as human trafficking screening and departure planning for those being deported.
The services are for those enrolled in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program, which involves more than 300,000 illegal immigrants who are awaiting asylum hearings being tracked by GPS monitoring via ankle bracelets, phone check-ins and/or smart-phone apps. Participants in the pilot will remain part of the ATD monitoring program.
The initial congressional authorization said the pilot program was being established 'in recognition of ICE's significant lack of referral approvals for enrollment into existing case management services provided by [NGOs] and community partners' and said explicitly that it was to be executed by nonprofits and 'local communities.'
The CMPP raised concerns from Republicans due to the involvement of a nonprofit that has previously backed calls for the defunding and abolition of ICE.
Church World Services (CWS) is one of the three members that met congressionally set criteria and was selected to sit on the board — along with two other non-profits — and has also been designated as its secretariat and fiscal agent. According to documents on the program, CWS 'will be substantially involved in the oversight, implementation, monitoring and reporting of the program outcomes.'
CWS has a history of immigration activism. During the Obama administration, CWS demanded that ICE end immigration operations, slamming 'the structural sin of raids and deportations that tear families and communities apart.' In 2021, it tweeted '#AbolishICE' and '#FreeThemAll' about a report that claimed ICE had threatened hunger strikers in facilities with deportation. It has also taken part in events to oppose ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) funding.
CWS told Fox News Digital in October that it has 'long advocated for humane alternatives to detention and against the cruel and inhumane treatment of migrants seeking safety.'
'CMPP is an important step toward the federal government providing the trauma-informed, wholistic case management services that all families seeking safety deserve,' the group said.
Sens. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, and Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., have since called for more information from the Biden administration over the program.
'It is well-past time that the Case Management Pilot Program (CMPP) be subject to the oversight that it so sorely needs,' the Republican senators wrote in a letter to top DHS officials. 'Congress has a duty, including a fiduciary duty, to ensure that taxpayer money is spent correctly and that a congressionally directed pilot program has not been usurped as a means of funneling money to NGOs espousing rhetoric aimed at frustrating and dismantling immigration enforcement and our nation’s borders.'
The lawmakers sought information about the specifics of the program, including the selection of board members, copies of documents related to the governance of the program, the number of migrants enrolled in it and details about the services provided under the program. They also asked how the program supplements and guides the ATD program, which involves illegal immigrants being monitored by a cellphone app or other methods as their cases proceed.
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