Freedom for Immigrants is dedicated to creating new models that treat people with dignity and keep them within their communities.
What is an Alternative Accompaniment Program?
Alternative Accompaniment Programs are community-initiated alternative to detention programs run by community groups or nonprofits in a similar manner to the federal Refugee Resettlement Program.
Instead of being detained or wearing ankle monitors, immigrants are allowed to remain living with family.
If they are recent asylum seekers without family, then they are housed with volunteers or in group homes while the courts process their immigration cases.
An “alternative accompaniment program” demonstrates that people nationwide can build effective and humane pathways away from our punitive immigration detention system.
Examples of Alternative Accompaniment Programs
Our Post Release Accompaniment Program (PRAP) is a community-initiated alternative accompaniment program. PRAP provides immigrants who would otherwise be detained with the ability to fight their case from the outside.
PRAP assists in helping immigrants obtain release on parole, for example, and provides them with housing, connections to attorneys, transportation to immigration court, and limited financial support.
In the first year and a half, volunteers secured the safe release of approximately 300 asylum seekers, and we are now expanding on the scope of its demonstration model by engaging local and federal governments in supporting a community-based alternative to detention that replaces immigration detention beds with holistic community support for all immigrants, eventually capping (and then eliminating) the number of people in immigration detention.
With careful data tracking, we are proving that this new model is less expensive than immigration detention, and also leads to more successful outcomes.
Our Revolving Immigration Detention Bond Fund also is proving that immigrants do not need to pay bond or be imprisoned to ensure compliance with their legal proceedings. We have operated a Bond Fund since 2010. We work with the families of people in detention to raise the entire bond amount. We then post the bonds with ICE and become what is called the obligor. We provide resources, case management, and accompaniment support to the people who are being released from immigration detention. If a person complies with all requirements of their immigration cases, the bond will be returned to Freedom for Immigrants and is reused to assist another person in paying bond and winning their freedom from immigration detention. So far our data shows that it only costs about $17 per person per day to support individuals through our case management services versus $145 per person per day to keep them locked up in detention. Learn more about our current bond initiative by emailing Christina Fialho at CFialho@freedomforimmigrants.org and check out our Bay Area Immigration Bond Fund.
The Vera Institute for Justice partnered with the INS in the late 1990s to run a pilot community-based alternative to detention. Their pilot found that 93% of asylum seekers appeared for their hearings and 94% of people with past criminal convictions showed up for their hearings.
In 2013, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops both signed Memorandum of Understanding with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to administer self-funded community-based alternatives to detention pilot programs. LIRS administered its program in New York/Newark area and in San Antonio. USCCB administered its program in Baton Rouge and Boston.
For more information on domestic and international examples of community-based alternatives to detention, along with legal analysis on the viability of these programs, read Freedom for Immigrants' report, Rebuilding Trust: A Case Study for Closing and Repurposing Immigration Detention Facilities.
Why the federal government hasn't invested in Alternative Accompaniment Programs
Private prison corporations, such as GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, have not only hijacked the term “alternatives to detention,” they have created a system to ensure their own profits whether or not an immigrant is physically confined. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pours millions of taxpayer dollars into two forms of “alternatives to detention” administered by private prison companies.
These programs are not alternatives to detention, but rather, alternative forms of detention:
Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP): ISAP is administered by Behavioral Interventions, a subsidiary of the private prison corporation GEO Group. It relies on the use of electronic ankle monitors, biometric voice recognition software, unannounced home visits, employer verification, and in-person reporting to supervise participants. GEO Group generates approximately $47 million in annualized revenues from ISAP. We believe this is not a true alternative to detention, but rather, an alternative form of detention because it privileges surveillance over support.
Family Case Management Program: The Family Case Management Program was supposedly going to be a true community-run alternative to detention that would provide social, medical, and legal services to 1,500 mothers and children who would otherwise be detained. However, ICE awarded the $11 million program contract to GEO Care, another subsidiary of GEO Group. GEO Group is concerned first and foremost with “yield[ing] attractive profit margins,” not caring for those released into its program.
How you can support Alternative Accompaniment Programs
There are many ways you can get involved, including providing emergency transportation, serving as a host for someone eligible for release from detention, or providing direct financial support to immigrants.