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Nonprofit that backs defunding ICE to oversee DHS pilot program aiding illegal immigrants

A nonprofit that called for the defunding and abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is overseeing a Department of Homeland Security pilot program to aid illegal immigrants facing deportation — including the awarding of grants for the program.

Church World Service was designated earlier this year as the Secretariat and fiduciary agent for DHS’ Case Management Pilot Program (CMPP). The program will provide “voluntary case management and other services” to those in immigration removal proceedings, including mental health services, school enrollment, legal aid, “cultural orientation programs” and connections to social services — as well as human trafficking screening and departure planning for those being deported.

The CMPP was authorized by Congress in the 2021 DHS Appropriations Act, which provided $5 million in funding to FEMA for the program. It also set out eligibility for who could sit on the program’s National Board, outlining that organizations must be nonprofits, nonpartisan, and have expertise in the asylum and refugee field, detention alternatives and case management. 

CWS, a faith-based non-profit that was set up after World War II, is one of the three members that met the criteria and was selected to sit on the board – along with two other non-profits – and has also been designated as its secretariat and fiscal agent. According to documents on the program, CWS “will be substantially involved in the oversight, implementation, monitoring, and reporting of the program outcomes.”

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That includes review of implementation plans for subrecipients, managing grant awards, developing the program’s manual, defining data requirements and indicators, approving key personnel, and approving any subgrants. CWS itself does not receive any of the funding nor is it eligible for the grants.

The board and CWS will provide funding awards to service nonprofits and local governments to provide the migrant services — which can also include language classes, healthcare, transportation, affordable housing and childcare — to those enrolled in ICE’s Alternatives to Detention program. That program, which has escalated dramatically during the Biden administration, involves more than 300,000 illegal immigrants who are awaiting asylum hearings being tracked by GPS monitoring via ankle bracelets, phone check-ins and/or smart-phone apps.

The congressional authorization said the pilot program was being established “in recognition of ICE’s significant lack of referral approvals for enrollment into existing case management services provided by [NGOs] and community partners” and said explicitly that it was to be executed by nonprofits and “local communities.”

However, Church World Service has a history of immigration activism, including embracing calls to Abolish ICE entirely or defund it. 

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During the Obama administration, CWS demanded that ICE end immigration operations, slamming “the structural sin of raids and deportations that tear families and communities apart.”

In 2019 it took part in events with Democrats to oppose ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) funding — including an event where, according to a release, participants including CWS “urged Congress to divest from oppressive and immoral systems of detention, deportation, and border militarization, including Trump’s wall.”

In 2021, it tweeted “#AbolishICE” and “#FreeThemAll” about a report that claimed ICE had threatened hunger strikers in facilities with deportation. More recently it has also opposed the expansion of Title 42 expulsions by the Biden administration.

It was one of a number of groups that urged the Biden administration to end its priorization of “aggravated felonies” and specifically gang members — calling for it to “withdraw any reliance on gang affiliations” when it laid out its priorities.

“Black, Latinx, and immigrant persons are grossly overrepresented among those labeled gang-affiliated by law enforcement,” the letter said. “Criteria for applying such labels are opaque, arbitrary and inflected with racially-biased criteria. The propensity for discriminatory enforcement is particularly alarming in light of increasing evidence of white supremacy ideologies within law enforcement, including gang policing units.”

CWS, which has received funding from activist groups that include George Soros’ Open Society network, is also a member of the Defund Hate group, which is “committed to divestment” from ICE and CBP calling them “agencies that tear apart loved ones and harm our communities.”

“The Defund Hate Campaign has blocked nearly $12 billion from ICE and CBP to date,” the group says on its website. “We’re committed to blocking more and redirecting that investment to strengthen families and communities.”

In a response to Fox News Digital, CWS said it has long advocated for humane alternatives to detention and against the cruel and inhumane treatment of migrants seeking safety.”

“CMPP is an important step toward the federal government providing the trauma-informed, wholistic case management services that all families seeking safety deserve,” the group said.

Former acting ICE Director Tony Pham told Fox News Digital that the development is “another slap in the face to the hardworking workforce over at ICE, especially the enforcement operations group who dedicated their entire career in protecting the United States.”

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“I don’t understand how they justify doing that. And then turn around and look at the workforce in their face and tell them that they support them as employees of ICE and DHS,” he said. “I don’t understand it.”

Pham said it isn’t unusual to have NGO’s involved in immigration operations, specifically in providing services, but said that putting a group with such positions in an operational role was different, and warned that DHS had turned the operations of the program “to an organization that doesn’t share in the same mission space that the US Department of Homeland Security is supposed to share in.”

“My hopes are that when Congress flips…in November, that the House looks to to call into question the awards of all of these taxpayer dollars, how they were awarded, and, most importantly at them, who they were awarded to,” he said.

RJ Hauman, head of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) — which advocates for lower levels of immigration — said the program should be looked at by Republicans in Congress.

“It’s hard to find a more glaring example of lawlessness and corruption than tapping a Soros-funded, open-borders organization that opposes ICE’s very existence to operate a detention alternative — and not a true alternative with electronic monitoring, but one that provides illegal aliens with services paid for by the American taxpayer and the ability to roam free,” he said. 

“Republicans must nip these practices in the bud if they take back one or both chambers of Congress in November. A border security bill cannot be the only priority. They have to conduct aggressive oversight and apply firm restrictions on every dollar given to DHS, while making sure detention is managed properly.”

Fox News’ Bill Melugin contributed to this report.

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