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Colorado migrant services group calls new ICE program 'a waste of government resources'

Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network provides legal and social services, whereas ICE's program monitors and makes referrals
Emily Brock from Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network
Posted at 7:21 PM, Oct 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-13 08:38:33-04

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — As migrants continue to arrive in Colorado seeking help, a nonprofit legal and social service provider told Denver7 that a new federal government program is missing the mark.

The Young Adult Case Management Program (YACMP), recently launched by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Denver and other cities nationwide, has some immigrant rights advocates worried about the program’s approach and the company hired to run it.

YACMP is supposed to connect teens, age 18 and 19, with services. But the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN) — Colorado’s only nonprofit providing both legal and social services to migrants of all ages — called the program “a waste of government resources.”

YACMP is primarily meant to ensure compliance with immigration requirements through monitoring, according to an ICE description of the program.

“There's sort of a faulty narrative in that monitoring is required for compliance,” said Emily Brock, an attorney who runs RMIAN’s program for children. “Most people when they understand the process, and when they are actually given the information as to when they have court, when they have to show up to a check in meeting, are compliant.”

Recently, Brock has noticed that some of her clients are being enrolled in YACMP, even though they are already receiving services.

“We contact the YACMP program and say, ‘Hey, thanks for looking out for our client. But... we're presenting a case for them. We don't need the services,’” Brock said.

But RMIAN has faced difficulties getting their clients removed from the program.

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Brock worries the youths enrolled in YACMP won’t understand the potential ramifications for their legal cases.

“You have kids who are going through this process and being required to present for check-ins and talk to government officials, who are the same people who are prosecuting the case to have them deported,” Brock said.

"They're being asked questions about their legal case, about their home life," she said. "All of that information can be used against them, and they're young, they don't understand that that's what's happening.”

Right now, across Colorado, nearly 3,000 migrants are being monitored through ICE “alternative to detention” programs, including YACMP and an experimental surveillance program, according to the government’s latest data.

Although YACMP refers youth to service providers like RMIAN, those organizations don’t receive any of the funding. Brock said those resources could be more effectively invested directly into legal and social services.

“We need to be open to providing more services to ensure access to counsel,” she said. “There are many children who are coming here because it is not safe for them to stay in their home country. They're leaving behind everything they've ever known, everyone they have ever known."

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But migrants, including children, aren’t entitled to a lawyer in the immigration process. Leaving many children “to proceed alone by themselves,” Brock said.

That’s why RMIAN provides free legal representation and other wraparound services like “know your rights” presentations, information sessions, self-help workshops and legal orientation programs for individuals and families.

Brock said the goal is “to ensure that their whole life is being served and not just their legal case.” Providing those services for free is critical, she said.

“We're asking people who have very few resources to simultaneously present a case about why they can't return to their home country… while simultaneously struggling with the same issues that Coloradans are struggling with,” such as housing insecurity and food scarcity, Brock said.

On top of that, there’s "the pressure of the possibility of being removed to a country where they face violence and political insecurity,” she said.

But despite those challenges, Brock said her clients are some of the strongest and most resilient people she’s met.

“It's an honor to have that chance to walk with them in their case and to tell their story,” she said.

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