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Illegal immigrants 11 times more likely to be electronically tracked than jailed under Biden

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 12/8/2022 Anna Giaritelli

The Biden administration has exponentially expanded the use of an immigration program that allows people who illegally crossed the U.S. southern border to be released into the United States and tracked electronically rather than detained in jail.

The number of people enrolled in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program Alternatives to Detention has quadrupled from 86,000 the week President Joe Biden took office nearly two years ago to more than 343,000 by late November, according to an analysis of federal data by the nonpartisan research center Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University in New York.

It is the highest number of illegal immigrants to be released into the U.S. rather than detained pending court proceedings in U.S. history, largely due to the number of people coming across the southern border unlawfully.

Under the program, which was rolled out to a far smaller extent nearly two decades ago, immigrants are monitored electronically through ankle monitors, telephonic reporting via landlines, and a cellphone app SmartLINK — instead of being detained in jail until immigration court proceedings.


Data: Immigration and Customs Enforcement / Graph: TRAC © Provided by Washington Examiner Data: Immigration and Customs Enforcement / Graph: TRAC

But not everyone is happy about the switch to a hands-off approach.

Former Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott said ATD "has only compounded the crisis" at the border, enticing more people to migrate knowing they will not be jailed but likely released into the U.S.

“Detention is the only way to ensure due process and is a proven deterrent to illegal immigration and fraudulent asylum schemes, while a catch and release program that is failing to track large numbers of those that it releases is symptomatic of the lawlessness that is countenanced by the current administration,” said Scott, the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s senior distinguished fellow for border security, in a statement.

Others, including the Justice for Immigrants organization, said ATD invades privacy and is a surveillance tactic.

"In place of mass detention, the government should use a long-existing spectrum of alternatives to detention, including release, affordable bond, or other tools of support," Justice for Immigrants said in a statement on its website. "Many immigrants and asylum seekers already have strong community ties and robust incentives to appear in immigration court, and for certain populations release to the community during case processing is appropriate."

The Daily Caller News Foundation recently found that 49,000 of the 344,000 people being tracked through ATD were not monitored under any of the three tools despite ICE's public disclosure online that states fewer than 300 people are in the program but untracked.

Data: Immigration and Customs Enforcement / Graph: TRAC © Provided by Washington Examiner Data: Immigration and Customs Enforcement / Graph: TRAC

SmartLINK has become the default method of tracking people, with more than a quarter of a million of the 343,000 being followed that way, TRAC found. Just 25,000 people were tracked by the cellphone app when Biden took office, and that figure has increased tenfold in that time. Facial scans are taken through the app to verify the correct person is checking in, and his or her exact location is documented.

The Biden administration has also turned back to using ankle monitors on tens of thousands more people than this summer. As of late September, more than 40,000 people were released with the ankle-fastened gadget.

Roughly 20,000 people were required to report to ICE on certain dates and times by landline telephone.

The influx of immigrants at the southern border has put more pressure on ICE, which in turn has increased its use of the program due to a lack of funding to detain hundreds of thousands of people at a time and the Biden administration’s opposition to detaining people for immigration offenses.


Approximately 30,000 people, less than one-tenth of the number on ATD, are held in ICE detention. Roughly 30% of those detained have a criminal record. Others detained may have committed lesser offenses but are detained because they are considered a risk to the public or unlikely to show up to court.

BI Inc., a part of GEO Group that was contracted by the government to operate many of ICE’s detention centers nationwide, is also overseeing these programs.


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Tags: Immigration, Immigrants, ICE, Detainees, Jail, Court, Crime, Border Crisis, DHS

Original Author: Anna Giaritelli

Original Location: Illegal immigrants 11 times more likely to be electronically tracked than jailed under Biden


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