From Jailers to Case Managers: Redesigning the U.S. Immigration Detention System to Be Effective and Fair

Randy Capps and Doris Meissner
Date of Publication: 
September, 2021
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

The U.S. immigration detention system is vast, expensive, prison-like, and prone to health risks, despite the fact that violations of immigration law are a function of civil, not criminal, law. This report by Randy Capps and Doris Meissner of the Migration Policy Institute reimagines the immigration detention system by “steering it away from a punitive, detention-centered approach and toward more proportionate and cost-effective policies that still ensure compliance with immigration court and removal proceedings.” The authors argue that the current immigration detention system as well as the broader enforcement system is too expensive, accounting for a full third of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) budget. Moreover, current policies have clogged the immigration court system such that millions of immigrants have to wait sometimes years for their cases to be heard. The authors also argue that the system is inhumane, as demonstrated by the restriction of personal freedoms as well as extremely high infection rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the authors propose a less costly alternative that would use release with supervision and case management as the main enforcement methods. Detention would be limited only to those migrants who pose public safety risks. Emphasis would be placed on providing legal counsel, case management and social services that would lead to the fairer adjudication of cases. Such a shift would necessitate fundamental changes to the culture and operations of the Department of Homeland Security as well as action by Congress. (The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Capps. R. & Meissner, D. (2021, September). From Jailers to Case Managers: Redesigning the U.S. Immigration Detention System to Be Effective and Fair. Migration Policy Institute.