A federal program designed to monitor some “non-detained” migrants has placed expensive technology into the hands of those suspected of having broken immigration laws and then allowed them to roam about the country while their cases pend, new data shows.
According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has enrolled some “non-detained” migrants into a program called “Alternatives to Detention.” ICE says it considers immigration status, criminal history, compliance history, community and family ties, and other “humanitarian or medical conditions” when determining who qualifies for ATD. Those in ATD are given a technological device and then released into the country while their cases are processed.
More specifically, ICE gives some or all ATD enrollees smartphones containing facial recognition and GPS monitoring applications or software. Migrants in ATD are also compelled to participate in “telephonic reporting,” which compares the voice used on the call “against a voiceprint obtained” when the person was enrolled. TRAC also asserts that at least some migrants are furnished with an ankle bracelet.
Though ATD actually began in 2004 under the George W. Bush administration, the program has surged under Biden. On his first day in office, Biden signed a 100-day pause on deportations and limited arrests only to those migrants who may pose a national security or safety threat.
As a result, illegal immigration has soared. Back in September, Border Patrol reported a record 2.1 million encounters in fiscal year 2022 with still a month left to go. Of those 2.1 million, only a tiny fraction have been enrolled in ATD, and even fewer remain in the program until their cases have been adjudicated completely.
As of September 24, there were just under 317,000 “non-detained” noncitizens enrolled in ATD, an increase of 266% since Biden’s inauguration, when the number hovered around 92,000.
Each year, ICE is budgeted about $2.2 billion for ATD and all the technology associated with it. Unfortunately, that investment has not always paid dividends. According to the Daily Caller, the Government Accountability Office admitted back in June that most ATD enrollees are removed from the program before their cases have concluded, and a quarter of those who were moved into ATD alternatives ultimately fled.