A Case for Community-Based Alternatives to Immigration Detention

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the existing problems with the immigration detention system in the United States. In response, the U.S. government should take the opportunity to invest in the development of a holistic, community-based alternative to detention program like those that are already at work in some communities in the United States and worldwide. Part I of this Note explores some of the constitutional, humanitarian, and health concerns with immigration detention in the United States, and how they have been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Part II focuses on the use of Alternatives to Detention (“ATD”), specifically the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (“ISAP”), ICE’s primary ATD program, and identifies the concerns and shortcomings of ISAP as an alternative to immigration detention. Part III then demonstrates that community-based programs will be more humane, effective, and cost-efficient than current detention and ATD programs. With the public and global pressure for alternatives to immigration detention in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the perfect time to invest in an alternative that can serve as a long-term solution to an inhumane and increasingly problematic immigration detention system.