Advocates point to canceled Obama-era program meant to keep families together after Trump separation policy

Advocates point to canceled Obama-era program meant to keep families together after Trump separation policy
© Getty Images

Immigration advocates are highlighting the Trump administration’s cancellation of an Obama-era pilot program meant to keep migrant families seeking asylum together, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE faces blowback for the policy separating families at the border.

The Trump administration canceled the Family Case Management Program (FCMP) last year, citing high costs and a lack of removal of asylum seekers, NBC News reported.

Immigration advocates told the network that the program kept asylum-seeking families out of detention and together.


Families who passed a credible fear interview and were deemed to be strong candidates to have fewer restrictions — largely pregnant women or women with young children — were accepted into the program.

The program cost the government about $36 a day for each family. Other alternative detention methods cost about $5 to $7 a day for each adult, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman.

The program assigned those migrants a caseworker who guided them through their rights and responsibilities, as well as helping them get a lawyer and to get in court, according to the report.

ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez told NBC News in a statement that the agency ended the program in June 2017, and that the rate of compliance for the program was similar to other “monitoring options” used by ICE “which proved to be a much better use of limited resources.”

"Additionally, removals of individuals on [alternatives to detention] ATD occur at a much higher rate than the FCMP," Rodriguez said. "Over the lifespan of FCMP, there were only 15 removals from this program, as opposed to more than 2,200 from ATD in the same period. There are no plans to reinstate the FCMP at this time."

Immigration advocates told NBC News that the other “monitoring options” cited by Rodriguez were invasive, inappropriate and criminalizing.

“When people have an understanding of their immigration requirement and an understanding with the process, they will generally comply … even if it has a negative outcome,” Katharina Obser, a senior policy adviser for the Women's Refugee Commission's Migrant Rights and Justice program, told the network. “And they will comply because they feel like they’ve had a fair and reasonable chance.”

The Trump administration faced widespread criticism for its policy separating immigrant children from their families at the border. Trump signed an executive order to end the separations earlier this month.