The number of migrants being monitored under a surveillance program launched as an alternative to traditional detention centers has increased astronomically under the Biden administration.
A record 132,026 immigrants are now being screened under Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) Intensive Appearance Monitoring (ISAP) program, up from 86,000 at the start of the year.
This growth has alarmed critics who say the program is causing mental and physical harm to immigrants while doing little to distract them from ICE’s brick-and-mortar facilities.
“Too many people in this administration, and in previous administrations, saw these types of electronic surveillance programs as relatively harmless and effective alternatives to immigration detention,” said Peter Markowitz, director of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at Yale Law School. “I think what we are seeing is that they are neither harmless nor really an alternative to detention.”
ISAP, now in its fourth version, was launched in 2004 as a means of monitoring immigrants in removal proceedings through a mixture of home and field visits, court monitoring and electronic surveillance.
The program has become a favorite of the Biden administration, which has attempted to position its immigration strategy as a humane alternative to the old President TrumpDonald Trump Jan. 6 panel demands Meadows testify on Friday or risk being charged with contempt Defense and National Security – Biden marks Veterans Day Trump backs Texas representative who said he “may very well” have committed offenses liable to dismissal PLUS‘s.
âIt seems that the growth really started after Joe bidenJoe Biden and Chinese Xi to hold virtual summit on Monday: Briahna Joy Gray reports: Biden “fools around” with student debt cancellation Defense and National Security – Biden marks Veterans Day MORE has taken office, âAustin Kocher, associate research professor at Syracuse University who tracks immigration numbers, told The Hill. “The administration is somewhat reluctant that the number of detentions is too high because they were low during the pandemic, for good reason.”
ISAP requires registrants to wear ankle monitors, use a voice reporting system, or download an app called SmartLINK. All three tools were developed by BI Incorporated, a subsidiary of the GEO Group’s private prison trust which has won all ISAP contracts since the start of the program.
Immigrants spend an average of 615.1 days in the program, despite the recent influx of participants and the requirement for ICE to review the supervision conditions of individuals every 90 days. And despite being touted as an alternative to detention, the number of immigrants held by ICE nearly doubled to over 22,000 as ISAP exploded.
The use of GPS tracking ankle monitors has brought special consideration to the detrimental effects it has on the health of migrants.
Ninety percent of participants in a recent survey conducted by the Markowtiz Immigrant Clinic submitted to the monitors said they had suffered physical damage from them, including aches, pains and cramps.
The poll, conducted in collaboration with Freedom for Immigrants and the Immigrant Defense Project, also found that nearly 90% of those surveyed said the channels negatively impact their mental health.
Twelve percent of those surveyed said they had thoughts of suicide because of the ankle monitors, which essentially track their location 24/7 and also allow them to be contacted by ICE agents at any time.
The data extracted from the ankle monitors allowed ICE not only to monitor people participating in the program, but also to establish behavioral models for their communities that can then be used for law enforcement operations.
The proportion of immigrants in ISAP subjected to ankle monitors has declined significantly recently – 21.7% of participants had GPS monitors in October, up from 46% in June 2019.
SmartLINK has become the tool of choice, with nearly 60 percent of SIAP immigrants using it last month.
The app is used for photo registrations, where immigrants are required to take a photo of themselves at a given point in time, which is then compared to the one taken during registration using software from facial recognition.
SmartLINK, which is used in prisons across the country, also has video call capability for recordings and provides immigrants with appointment confirmations and court information.
The app has raised privacy and security concerns. ICE said it does not actively monitor user locations and only collects GPS information during recordings.
The app’s facial recognition ability is also problematic, according to Jordana Signer, a member of Human Rights Watch, because of the ongoing biases in the technology against black and brown people, which could lead to unfair punishment of immigrants.
After being questioned by Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenEquilibrium / Sustainability – Presented by Altria – The Thames Comes to Life Warren Urges Biden to Forgive Non-violent Cannabis Sentences A data broker has shared location data with the DC government for tracking coronavirus PLUS (Golden.), ICE said in 2018 that the SmartLINK technology has a “high level of precision” and that the images collected through the application are not shared with any other agency.
While voice verification monitoring technology has received less attention than Channels or SmartLINKs, Markowitz argues that all three contribute to âubiquitous monitoringâ of immigrant communities.
âAs the hindrance, phone app monitoring and voice recognition are all different facets of this larger monitoring program, I think you’re going to find similar damage,â he told The Hill.
Immigrant rights groups have called for the dismantling of the entire ISAP program.
“We are convinced that we must end the criminalization of immigration,” Aly Panjwani, Take Back Tech Fellow at Just Futures Law, told The Hill. “We cannot replace these brick-and-mortar prisons with high-tech prisons because that only perpetuates the same prison approach to immigration that the [Department of Homeland Security] has had since its founding.
However, public support for abolition from lawmakers has yet to materialize. In the meantime, some alternatives to ensure that immigrants in deportation proceedings attend court hearings without requiring their detention have been proposed.
One is an Alternatives to Detention Program that lasted less than two years. The Family Case Management Program, which provided families with case managers and legal advice, had a 99% effectiveness rate before it was canceled by former President Trump in 2017.
This rate means that almost everyone in the program showed up for all immigration appointments and court hearings. ISAP has the same rate, according to ICE.
Another alternative is to provide immigrants with legal representation to help them navigate the often confusing deportation process. Several studies have shown that this increases participation in court hearings to levels comparable to that of immigrants under ISAP.
“There are some very good lessons in some of the community alternatives to detention programs that have been run in the past,” Markowitz said. “Particularly those which also have a legal services component have both the advantage of ensuring that people are able and sufficiently aware to present themselves as required in immigration court, but also to support the ability of individuals, communities and families to survive and prosper.