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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

UN "disturbed" by U.S. deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers

Two Haitian boys cross the water at the US-Mexico border on the Rio Grande. Photo: PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

Several United Nations agencies on Tuesday expressed concern over the U.S. deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers, Reuters reports.

What they're saying: "While some people arriving at the border may not be refugees, anyone who ... claims to have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their country of origin — they should have access to asylum and to have their claim assessed before being subjected to expulsion or deportation," said UN Refugee Agency spokesperson Shabia Mantoo, per Reuters.

Schumer: Deportation of Haitian asylum-seekers "defies common sense"

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrives for a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol, Sept.20. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday condemned the Biden administration's deportation of Haitian immigrants, saying the move "defies common sense."

The big picture: The U.S. is deporting the immigrants under the Trump-era Title 42 policy that Schumer called "hateful and xenophobic." The government has used Title 42 to accelerate deportations during the pandemic.

Harris, Mayorkas voice horror at footage of Border Patrol whipping at migrants

Photo: Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images

Members of the Biden administration are condemning footage that shows U.S. Border Patrol agents whipping at and charging horses at migrants in Del Rio, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Over the weekend, the Biden administration began cracking down on the thousands of Haitian migrants who have sought refuge in Del Rio in the hope of seeking asylum. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched an investigation into the Border Patrol incident after it drew backlash online.

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