The White House is rolling out a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that will subject asylum-seeking families that cross the U.S. border without authorization to GPS monitoring and a curfew — a move that immigrant advocates say will further criminalize migrants and ultimately expand ICE’s inhumane system of immigrant imprisonment.
The punitive surveillance program, known as Family Expedited Removal Management, comes weeks after the Biden administration announced that it would be enacting an asylum ban that is virtually identical to one proposed by former President Donald Trump. The program is meant to impose “immigration consequences,” according to a statement from ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
The policy applies to families who have indicated an intention to apply for asylum after being placed in a fast-track deportation process upon crossing the border. Once placed in the expedited deportation process, families will be monitored until they receive a credible fear interview. Until then, the family’s head of household will be required to wear a GPS monitor, such as an ankle bracelet, and abide by a curfew from 11 pm to 5 am. If they fail the screening, they will be deported, receive a five-year expulsion, and could face criminal prosecution if they return to the U.S.
Though officials claim that the policy is designed to keep migrant families out of immigrant jails, which have been responsible for the forcible separation of thousands of families, immigrant advocates have said that the electronic monitoring of asylum seekers only further entrenches the U.S.’s system of immigrant imprisonment. Such surveillance has significantly expanded during the Biden administration.
Researchers at Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) have found that ICE is currently monitoring at least 250,000 people and, as of September 2022, using ankle monitors to surveil nearly 41,000 people.
ICE is also currently testing a surveillance pilot project on 50 adult immigrants near Denver, Colorado, using a smartwatch-like tracking device to monitor migrants who are enrolled in the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program. Migrants will be forced to wear watches with a GPS feature throughout their entire day, receive messages from ICE officials, and notify ICE if the watch is removed.
Immigrant organizations have demanded that ICE immediately halt the pilot program, saying that it infringes on asylum seekers’ civil liberties and privacy rights.
“Congress and ICE throw away millions every year contracting with for-profit organizations instead of investing in humane and effective ways to streamline our process to welcome others,” said Andrea Loya, executive director of Casa de Paz, an organization whose mission is to reunite families separated by ICE.
The American Friends Service Committee has argued that the Biden administration’s reliance on the Alternatives to Detention program has not actually decreased the number of people imprisoned in immigrant jails.
“Reliance on ATDs is NOT decreasing the number of people in detention. More than 480,000 people have been enrolled in ICE’s ATD program as the number of people in immigration detention and detention funding both continue to increase,” the organization said. “ATD’s are an expansion of detention, not an alternative to it.”
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