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A migrant family awaits processing after crossing the Rio Grande last week. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The Biden administration is exploring ways to provide non-detention tracking and services for as many as 100,000 migrant families and 18- to 21-year-olds each year, according to a new government request.

Why it matters: The request for information by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reveals the kinds of options the Biden administration is considering to avoid detaining migrants.

  • The administration has gotten flak for using the Trump-era Title 42 public health order to keep families and adults from entering the country on the basis of controlling the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Axios previously reported the administration planned to eliminate Title 42 by July 31.
  • Distinguishing 18- to 21-year-olds from the rest of the migrant single adult migrant population, as proposed by the contract request, is unusual.
  • And beyond families and young adults, the program could be used for "other vulnerable populations," according to the ICE request.

Be smart: A request for information is an early part of the process, and ICE could decide not to award a contract.

Between the lines: Many families who cross the border are released into the U.S. after passing an initial screening for asylum.

  • Some are tracked with cellphones or other devices, but otherwise, there's little to no enforcement to ensure they show up for their immigration court hearings.
  • The Biden administration has already tried to deal with the mushrooming migrant numbers by converting family detention centers into rapid-processing centers.
  • A court order from 2016 prevents kids from being held in detention spaces for more than 20 days — even if they're with their parents.
  • That makes wholesale family detention a less useful tactic, as most immigration cases can't be completed during that time.

What to watch: The proposed program could provide services to about 100,000 migrants a year in Boston, Orlando, San Antonio, El Paso, Houston, New York, Phoenix, Dallas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, according to details in the request.

  • ICE also is looking for ways to provide low-cost or free legal representation to migrants and ensure school enrollment, as well as provide other resources to help them get situated in the U.S. while awaiting their court hearings.
  • ICE already has an alternative-to-detention contract with a group owned by the for-profit prison company GEO Group. It can serve 90,000 to 100,000 people daily.
  • One person familiar with the new request told Axios officials are looking for non-governmental organizations not affiliated with for-profit prisons to run the new program.

By the numbers: The number of border encounters with migrating families remains high compared to past years but has fallen since March.

  • It's also remained well below the record numbers from 2019 during the past two months.

Go deeper

Oct 4, 2021 - Health

Biden revokes Trump rule banning certain clinics from abortion referrals

A Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Monday revoked a Trump-era rule that bars clinics that receive federal family planning funding from referring patients for abortions.

Why it matters: The new rule, which will go into effect on Nov. 8, comes as the fight for abortion access ramps up in states and nationally.

Mexico's drug cartels target migrants as they expand into extortion

Daniel survived a cartel kidnapping and now awaits a U.S. asylum process in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Photo: Noticias Telemundo Investiga

Kidnapping families, torturing kids for information on whom to ask for ransom, and dismembering those that don’t pay: This is how cartels and local gangs operate as they have diversified their business from drug trafficking to extortion.

Why it matters: The stories of survivors show the dire straits migrants face in their journey to the U.S., the one place they think can be a safe haven from the violence, climate disasters, political persecution and poverty that made them leave their place of birth.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. and NATO answer Putin in writing while bracing for Ukraine invasion

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The U.S. and NATO provided Russia with written proposals on Wednesday to advance a "diplomatic path forward," even as they warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days.

Why it matters: This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act. The U.S. and NATO want to show they're serious about diplomacy but unwilling to compromise on "core principles" — all without providing Vladimir Putin with an additional pretext for escalation.

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