Case management isn’t necessarily something you would think of in relation to the U.S. immigration system, but a few years ago—for the first time in more than a decade—officials chose to invest in a model of individualized case management to support families seeking protection in the United States – and it worked.

A recent study from the Women’s Refugee Commission looked closely at the Family Case Management Program (FCMP), highlighting crucial successes and limitations of the pilot program.

Understanding the advantages of these options is all the more important now, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has grown its detention capacity—without congressional approval—in the last two years.

ICE, the agency which oversaw the program, described FCMP as “first tend[ing] to the basic necessities when these families arrived, ensuring they had appropriate access to food, shelter, and medical care, so that they may be more ready and able to comply with immigration requirements.”

Unfortunately, the Trump administration abruptly ended the program in June 2017—just one-and-a-half years after it began, and well short of its five-year contract.

Despite its premature closure, the program provides important lessons about meaningful and viable alternatives to detention.

WRC’s analysis, based on program documentation from the government and contractors, as well as interviews, provides several insights. Notably, the program was considered a “resounding success” by both ICE and Geo Cares, the company contracted to run the program.

Here are five key points to know about the FCMP:

  1. In its short lifespan between January 2016-June 2017, FCMP served 952 families in five metropolitan areas. The program provided individualized case management services, assisting released families with access to medical, social, and legal services. This, in turn, also helped compliance with immigration requirements.
  2. The estimated daily cost was $38 per family. This is a fraction of the cost of ICE detention—detaining a family of two in Dilley, Texas, costs taxpayers nearly $600 per day.
  3. Families enrolled in FCMP had nearly perfect compliance. The program had compliance rates over 99% with both ICE check-ins and immigration court appearances.
  4. Final evaluations of the program by ICE and Geo Cares determined the program successfully supported stabilization in the community and compliance with immigration requirements—including removal.
  5. The FCMP provides a successful model for a program that can and should be scaled up, if done right. WRC found limitations with the program’s contracting model and would benefit in the future from working directly with experienced community-based organizations with the ties and connections needed to serve immigrant and refugee populations.

According to the WRC, “with critical improvements and expansion, a program like the FCMP could serve many thousands more, save millions of dollars, and increase efficiency in an immigration system that desperately needs it.”

In just over a year of the program, it proved to be a viable and successful option for helping asylum-seeking families navigate and comply with the immigration system. It can work again—hopefully our political leaders will see the benefits and reinvest in smart solutions.