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Close up of an abstract illustration depicting form fields on a customer relationship manager application or intake form

Building a Digital Bridge for Separated Families

Coforma developed the Immigrant Connection Project (ICON) customer relationship manager (CRM) to connect social workers and attorneys with families separated at the US-Mexico border.

Anticipating a Humanitarian Crisis

Partner Name(s):
Vera Institute of Justice, New America
Delivery Date:

We knew lawyers and social workers would need a tool they could use to document each case they encountered.

As we watched the family separation crisis unfold, we anticipated records on separated children and caregivers were going to be insufficient, compounding challenges in an already difficult situation. Lawyers and social workers who could help these families would have no way to connect with people in need of their services without proper records.

Family of three hugging in front of a doorway

Coforma (then &Partners) saw an opportunity to get ahead of the problem by building a customer relationship manager (CRM) with open source technology that would help advocacy and action organizations record details about people who were separated, so they could help them reunite with their families in the future.

Andreen Soley, Interim Co-Director of Public Interest Technology (PIT), at New America said of the project, “In response to the devastating family separation and detention crisis in the summer of 2018, New America asked our partners at Coforma to develop an application that would help parents and legal representatives reconnect with their loved ones and better understand their own due process rights while dealing with the immigration and legal systems. Coforma dove right in, conducting discovery, developing a roadmap, and launching an MVP in just two weeks, bringing together a team of experts to create a solution that concretely improved the process for families. It is an incredible example of Public Interest Technology in action and at scale, and the New America team is grateful to have benefited from Coforma’s invaluable expertise.”

It is an incredible example of Public Interest Technology in action and at scale, and the New America team is grateful to have benefited from Coforma’s invaluable expertise.
Andreen SoleyInterim Co-Director of the Public Interest Technology ProgramNew America

Our Approach

We worked collaboratively and iteratively to develop an application for parents to locate and connect with the legal service providers working with their children.

Coforma researched, designed, and developed the Immigration Connect Project (ICON), a customer relationship manager (CRM) that connects legal service providers on the front lines of the crisis. Our team led a group of volunteer engineers, security specialists, designers, lawyers, and product managers through the challenges at the Southwest border in order to define the problem, develop a roadmap, design the technical architecture of the application, and deliver a working product.

Two layout diagrams showing a two column list of cards  and a centered form.

Alternate designs for the parent-facing versus the legal service provider-facing interface.

The ICON intake form displayed on a tablet with fields to enter information about the parent or guardian

An Intuitive Tool

We launched a web app for legal representatives and parents of children who were separated during the Zero Tolerance policy to use ICON to connect with a legal service provider working with their children.

A Single Purpose

Our cross-functional team united to develop a roadmap and design the technical architecture to connect siloed information and bridge communication gaps between separated families and legal representatives.

From Concept to Launch

Coforma’s proof of concept was built and launched within three days of kickoff, and the full launch followed just two weeks later.

Working Together

We partnered with New America and The Vera Institute of Justice, who served as the unifier for service providers along the Southwest border, and enabled those working at the border to focus on reuniting families with support and assistance from ICON.

Today’s Project ICON

Today’s project ICON is administered and maintained by the Vera Institute of Justice. It serves as a resource for parents who have been separated from their children due to the Zero Tolerance policy, locating and connecting them with the legal service providers working with their children. Although the federal government is the only entity that can physically reunite children and families, ICON helps ensure due process for these separated families.

Project Team

  • EduardoEduardo OrtizProduct Team
  • RaquelRaquel RomanoProduct Team
  • RobRob BakerProduct Team
  • AndyAndy BirchProduct Team
  • MargoMargo SternProduct Team
  • KioKio StarkProduct Team
  • JaredJared SpoolProduct Team
  • VictorVictor GarciaEngineering and Security
  • AndrewAndrew NorcrossEngineering and Security
  • AlexAlex GaynorEngineering and Security
  • DanaDana ChisnellSubject Matter Expert
  • EricEric HysenSubject Matter Expert


  • HTML5, PHP, CSS3, SCSS, ERB, JavaScript, and jQuery for front-end development

  • REST-based and SOAP-based APIs for system interoperability

  • Apache web server running on the cloud

  • MariaDB for relational database system management

  • Elasticsearch to power the search capabilities

  • Cucumber, RSpec, Capybara, Watir, and MiniTest for automated testing

  • Google Cloud for cloud hosting

  • Google App Engine to deploy the application

  • GitHub for source-code management


  • Industry standard Scrum framework for agile delivery

  • Object-oriented design patterns, database design patterns, and data modeling