New ICE program will put families under home curfew, deport those who fail asylum screenings

ICE agents surround a man at night.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents surround a man in Compton in 2017.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Asylum-seeking families that cross the U.S. border without authorization will be subject to GPS monitoring and a curfew and will be deported if they fail an initial screening under a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement program set to take effect soon, an agency official told The Times on Wednesday.

Under the plan, known as Family Expedited Removal Management, migrant families will be directed to appear for an initial asylum screening, known as a credible fear interview, when they reach their destinations. Another new Biden administration policy that limits asylum for those who cross through a third country and do not seek protection there will apply to them.

ICE will seek to deport families that fail the screening.

“There are consequences for family units,” said the ICE official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the program before it was publicly unveiled. “If they are not eligible to remain in the U.S., we are going to be moving them toward removal.”


ICE confirmed the plan in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“Families should not listen to the lies of smugglers. Like single adults, noncitizens traveling with their children who do not have a lawful basis to remain in the United States will be quickly removed and barred from reentry for at least five years,” Corey Price, a lead ICE official, said in a statement.

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March 2, 2023

President Biden’s administration is in the midst of preparing for the end of Title 42, which allowed border agents to quickly expel migrants under pandemic-era rules, later this week. Officials have long been worried about the predicted spike in encounters at the border when the 3-year-old policy ends.

In the coming days, ICE will place some families that are headed to Newark, N.J.; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago in the new FERM program. The curfew is expected to run from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Families will be required remain at home during the curfew hours. The family’s head of household will have to wear a GPS monitor, such as an ankle bracelet.

Families that do not show up to the screenings and do not agree to leave the country could be picked up and held at hotels, the ICE official said.

“The intention is that we are going to lean into compliance,” the official said.

In Tijuana, migrants wait in an area between two layers of border wall that has become an open-air holding cell for the U.S. Border Patrol.

May 12, 2023

Earlier this year, the Biden administration said it was considering all options for families crossing the border, including the potential to hold families in detention centers. In recent weeks, the head of ICE and later Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said the government had no plans to bring back detention centers for families.

“We have no plan to detain families. As I mentioned we will be employing alternatives to detention, including some innovations in that regard, and we will on a case-by-case basis use enhanced alternatives to detention as warranted,” he said in a late April news conference.


The Biden administration has increasingly relied on so-called alternatives to detention.

Immigrant advocates and some Democratic politicians have criticized the expansion of the alternative to detention program, saying it is a form of surveillance and is psychologically damaging.

Last year, ICE rolled out a pilot testing of a home curfew approach for some migrants.

Before the Biden administration stopped the practice of detaining families, ICE held families in two facilities in Texas. Since then, families have been released into the U.S., and the administration has placed some into a fast-track court process.

Biden tweeted during his presidential campaign in June 2020, “Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately. This is pretty simple, and I can’t believe I have to say it: Families belong together.”

Democratic senators pushed him to not bring back the practice after reports that it was being considered.

“We understand that your Administration faces significant challenges — particularly in light of Congressional failure to pass immigration reform — to manage an influx of asylum seekers arriving at our southern border,” the senators wrote.

“However, the recent past has taught us that family detention is both morally reprehensible and ineffective as an immigration management tool. We look forward to working closely with your Administration on more thoughtful and humane responses to such challenges.”