Alternatives to Detention

What are Alternatives to Detention?

ICE’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) programs exist to ensure compliance with release conditions and provides important case management services for non-detained noncitizens. ATD consists of the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP). The ATD-ISAP program utilizes case management and technology tools to support noncitizens compliance with release conditions while on ICE’s non-detained docket. ATD-ISAP also increases court appearance rates.

ATD additionally consists of subprograms such as the Young Adult Case Management Program (YACMP), led by the Juvenile and Family Management Unit. ICE also provides support to the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) with the implementation of their Case Management Pilot Program (CMPP).

ATD enables noncitizens to remain in their communities — contributing to their families and community organizations and, as appropriate, concluding their affairs in the U.S. — as they move through immigration proceedings or prepare for departure.

ATD has been in place since 2004 and the number of participants has increased over time. Through the end of July 2022, approximately 4.5 million noncitizens were being overseen on ICE’s non-detained docket. Of those, more than 350,000 participated in the ATD program with absconder rates dropping dramatically over the past two years.


Participant Enrollment

Adults 18 years of age or older who are released from DHS custody, and who are generally in removal proceedings or subject to a final order of removal, may be eligible for enrollment in ICE’s ATD programs. Participants are thoroughly vetted by officers before enrollment. Officers review several factors when making enrollment determinations, including:

  • Criminal, immigration and supervision history
  • Family and/or community ties
  • Status as a caregiver or provider
  • Humanitarian or medical considerations

Cost Effectiveness

The daily cost per ATD participant is less than $8 per day — a stark contrast from the cost of detention, which is around $150 per day.

ISAP Transition

Each noncitizen enrolled in ISAP receives an individualized determination as to their level of supervision. ERO may transition a noncitizen’s supervision level by considering certain factors. Factors considered in both initial placement and changes to supervision level, as relevant, include criminal history, compliance history, community or family ties, caregiver concerns, and other humanitarian or medical concerns.

Technology Types

ISAP ATD uses three different types of technology to ensure compliance with release conditions: telephonic reporting, Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring, and SmartLINK. In April, we announced limited testing of a wrist-worn GPS monitoring device as part of ongoing efforts to provide additional technology in the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) suite of options. The technology demonstration will begin with a limited deployment in Denver to test feasibility in an operational setting.

The telephonic reporting system allows a participant to report in via telephone. The phone calls are compared against voiceprints obtained during program enrollment to ensure identity verification.

Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring uses satellites to monitor a participant’s location and movement history. The GPS unit is ankle-worn and tracks the participant’s location at pre-set intervals. It may be a program violation to remove the units, which are safe for use in wet environments, including showering. Participants with questions or concerns with their GPS monitors can always contact their case specialist for assistance.

SmartLINK is an application that utilizes several technologies. It uses facial matching technology by comparing a selfie to a set of photos taken during program enrollment to ensure identity verification. Simultaneously, SmartLINK may obtain a single GPS point to monitor participant compliance at the time of a login or scheduled check-in. SmartLINK also provides virtual case management support, notification reminders, and direct communication with the case specialist. If an ATD participant does not have a personally owned mobile phone at the time of ATD enrollment, the participant will be issued a device capable solely of running the SmartLINK application. SmartLINK devices must be returned upon the participant’s re-assignment to a different level of supervision or completion of the ATD program. If a noncitizen acquires their own personally-owned phone, the SmartLINK application can be loaded onto that device. SmartLINK is intended for the sole purpose of providing immigration compliance and case management services to ATD participants. The application does not access personal data on a personally-owned phone such as call logs or history, contact information, text messages made outside of the SmartLINK application, or location data outside of single data points gathered through the application at login or pre-scheduled check-in times.

SmartLINK technology also allows for push notifications and reminders for upcoming appointments. This is particularly useful for court hearing reminders and office visit reminders. The participants can also search through a database to find community service provider information in their area. If they are looking for information on where to find a food bank, clothing, or other community services, the participant may search through their phone or tablet rather than or in addition to contacting a case specialist. SmartLINK also allows participants to upload and send documents to case specialists. Officers, case specialists, and participants may directly message each other.

The wrist-worn GPS monitoring technology provides GPS location monitoring, facial matching, and messaging functionalities. The device leverages technology similar to a consumer smartwatch, but it cannot be used for any function beyond compliance with immigration-related activities.

The majority of ATD participants are assigned to either the SmartLINK application on their own personal cell phone or to a SmartLINK Mobile device. As of December 2022, less than 20% of ATD participants have been assigned a GPS ankle monitor. Additionally, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to mitigate the limitations imposed by social distancing, ICE has increased reporting through phone calls and the SmartLINK application.

Case Management

ICE offers case management options in the ATD program. ICE verifies that addresses provided are valid, conducts physical home visits, virtual check-ins, and maintains sponsor information in the event a participant cannot be contacted directly. ICE requires check-ins, and alerts are sent automatically to the case specialist or officer that is monitoring the case if check-ins are missed; alerts are reviewed and addressed daily.

In August 2021, DHS announced a new, congressionally-directed pilot program, called the Case Management Pilot Program (CMPP), that will provide voluntary case management and other services to noncitizens in immigration removal proceedings.

ICE ERO’s Young Adult Case Management Program (YACMP), set to launch in January 2023 in 16 metropolitan areas, focuses on helping participants 18 to 19 years of age navigate the immigration process. As these noncitizens may be particularly vulnerable, the YACMP connects participants with community services and resources, and also educates them about their legal rights and obligations. The YACMP is a less restrictive setting for noncitizens who are released from DHS custody and does not include electronic monitoring.

The YACMP is designed to ensure program participants:

  • Residing in a safe environment;
  • Are able to be notified via U.S. Mail of their upcoming court dates;
  • Are able to prepare for and attend upcoming court dates and other immigration obligations; and
  • Have access to legal and other services (i.e., medical, mental health) as needed while in the community.

In addition, as part of the ISAP services available to participants, ICE ERO operates the Extended Case Management Services (ECMS) program, designed for participants who have significant challenges and would benefit from more intensive case management support than is traditionally provided by the ATD program.

In creating ECMS, ICE incorporated nearly all the Family Case Management Principles, a pilot program previously operated by ICE that employed specially trained case managers to encourage compliance with immigration obligations at a significantly reduced cost.

ECMS services include:

  • Orientation and education to participants about their legal rights and responsibilities
  • Case specialists providing reminders regarding ERO check-ins, dates for court appearances, and compliance with final decisions
  • Participants active under this program will receive a minimum of six contacts from their assigned case specialist per month
  • Individualized service plans based on needs assessment(s) that may lead to, but are not limited to the provision of the following services (at no additional cost to the government):
    • Living arrangements
    • Vocational services
    • Community support network
    • Medical services
    • Behavioral and mental health services
    • Legal services
    • Family dynamics
    • Nutrition services
    • Educational services
    • Substance abuse services
    • Culture, language, and communication
    • Orientation to living in the U.S. covering basic laws and acceptable behavior
    • Participant’s strengths
    • Trauma identification and trauma-informed care
  • Assistance with transportation logistics
  • Tracking and monitoring of immigration obligations — to include attendance at immigration court hearings

In 2020, ICE also incorporated Wraparound Stabilization Services (WSS) into the ATD program. WSS are targeted services that provide psychosocial and behavioral health support for vulnerable participants and their families who would benefit from additional stabilization services. WSS functions are available at contractor-operated sites, and all services are voluntary. WSS screenings for possible need are offered to all ATD participants.

Specialized services are enabled through partnership with approved non-profit organizations and include:

  • Supplemental services evaluation
  • Human trafficking screening
  • Trafficking group education
  • Trauma-informed individual therapy
  • Individual rehabilitation
  • Family therapy
  • Parenting education
  • Child abuse prevention
  • Repatriation support services

Alternatives to Detention


View ATD Statistics

Contact ICE about a case

If you are an ATD participant and have questions or concerns, please contact the Detention and Reporting Information Line at 1-888-351-4024.