- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is employing methods to reduce tracking of illegal immigrants released into the country, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation has found.
- Under the Biden administration, ICE has increased its reliance on a phone application that only knows the location of an illegal immigrant at certain times, while lessening its reliance on GPS monitoring, which tracks illegal immigrants at all times or most of the time, according to ICE data.
- “What’s happening is that the Biden administration is trying to move away from any form of serious monitoring under ATD to instead use this program as a way to provide services to illegal migrants to make them more comfortable while they’re here,” Director of Policy Studies for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) Jessica Vaughan told the DCNF.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been quietly adopting a model for tracking illegal immigrants that is becoming less restrictive, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation has found.
ICE’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program has been in place since 2004 to track those awaiting years-long court proceedings not in physical detention using GPS monitoring, phone applications and other forms of technology to track illegal immigrants released into the interior of the U.S. In recent years, the program has relied more on less restrictive and more expensive technology, according to ICE data and experts and foreign and current government officials who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: Biden Declared Victory In Handling Illegal Immigration While Mexico Sees Overwhelming Surges)
In fiscal year 2019, ICE was tracking 55,918 illegal immigrants using GPS monitoring and 5,706 illegal immigrants using SmartLINK, which is a phone application that only knows the location of a participant if and only when they check in periodically. In fiscal year 2020, the agency was tracking 36,647 illegal immigrants using GPSs and 18,915 illegal immigrants with SmartLINK.
The monitoring changed following those fiscal years.
In fiscal year 2021, ICE tracked 79,480 illegal immigrants with SmartLINK and 29,557 with GPS monitoring. In fiscal year 2022, ICE tracked 257,454 illegal immigrants using SmartLINK and only 9,324 with GPS monitoring.
Fiscal year 2023 was consistent with the previous year. ICE says its tracking 280,089 illegal immigrants with SmartLINK and 5,757 with GPS trackers. Currently, SmartLINK costs taxpayers $268,885.44 a day, while GPS monitoring costs taxpayers $15,774.18 a day.
“What’s happening is that the Biden administration is trying to move away from any form of serious monitoring under ATD to instead use this program as a way to provide services to illegal migrants to make them more comfortable while they’re here,” Director of Policy Studies for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) Jessica Vaughan told the DCNF.
“This is not an enforcement program at all. It is a social services program for recently arrived illegal migrants. And it’s costly to taxpayers, and it’s undermining the integrity of our immigration system. It’s in effect the next step after giving all these illegal arrivals parole, make it easier for them to get in and make it easier for them to stay. It’s like come for parole, stay for the wraparound services,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan and a current ICE agent, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak, say the reliance on less restrictive tracking is part of ICE’s move towards appeasing anti-enforcement advocates, told the DCNF.
“Since ATD relies on ISAP [Intensive Supervision Appearance Program contractors] to monitor non-citizens, ISAP does not have the staffing to continue to conduct home visits and keep track of the GPS monitoring. Therefore, the app is the most efficient and least cost-effective way to monitor. With humanitarian groups complaining about how inhumane GPS monitors are for people who are asylum seekers, ICE found the alternative to move forward to expanding the use of the Smartlink app. That allows ISAP to efficiently keep up with the rising number of ATD enrollments,” the ICE agent told the DCNF.
In a Wednesday letter to Texas Republican Rep. Pat Fallon, ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tae Johnson said that the agency has had success with ATD compliance. The data Johnson presented as evidence of success, however, is misleading at best, former Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott told the DCNF.
Of the 507 hearings illegal immigrants enrolled in ATD with GPS monitors, 500 appeared in court in the first three months of fiscal year 2023, Johnson wrote, adding that there’s a more than 99% hearing appearance rate during that same time frame for those tracked with other forms of technology or no technology at all.
Scott argued that the data only accounts for an illegal immigrant’s initial hearing while an illegal immigrant is enrolled in ATD, which is when they typically can get work authorization, and doesn’t account for the following court appearances and/or after they’ve been taken out of the program.
The average length an illegal immigrant is enrolled as an ATD participant is 380.7 days, while it takes an average of 1,621 days.
“I think it’s very misleading,” Scott said. “If you follow the full lifecycle, it’s not working. Only 6% of the people that are ordered deported at the end of the process actually leave the country. The main reason everybody shows up to the first hearing is so that they can get work authorization and they can get benefits in the United States because they basically just show the judge, ‘hey, the system is so backed up, It’s going to take years to finish this process. So how am I supposed to live here?’ They get work authorization, they live happily ever after. Even if they’re deported later, they don’t care because they’re not leaving, and no one’s looking for them,” Scott said.
ICE didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“The big problem with all this is you’re dealing with someone who has already shown that they’re more than willing to violate U.S. law to get away. Also, if you follow the process all the way through, even when a judge orders people deported at the end, less than 6% ever leave the country. The real issue is transparency through the whole process, not just picking a random spot in the middle,” Scott said.
Antonino Cambria contributed to this report.
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