Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) launched a new program in December of 2014 which uses GPS-enabled ankle bracelets to monitor immigrant families that crossed the border illegally and then were released into the United States. The Associated Press obtained an audio recording of a confidential meeting that took place in September discussing how immigrants traveling as families fail to report back to the ICE as directed after being released. The rate of immigrants failing to report back to the ICE was a shocking 70%.
Because of the high rate of immigrants failing to report back, in addition to a shortage of jail space, the Obama administration opened a temporary family jail in New Mexico and also in Texas. This program was introduced after immigration advocates were critical of Obama’s administration for jailing immigrant families, especially those with small children. Immigration advocates raised concerns about the condition of these facilities that provided housing for mostly woman and small children.
The goal of the meeting in September was to develop another option as an alternative to jails for immigrant families, while finding ways to increase the amount of families reporting back to the ICE.
On December 1, 2014 the pilot program named RGV 250 began to track families caught crossing the Mexican Border illegally with their children in the Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. The heads of the family were given the tracking devices and notices to report back with the possibility of having the tracking devices removed once they complied. The GPS provided information such as how many immigrants reported back in accordance to their notices and how long it took them to check in with the ICE.
The ICE reported that each immigrant will be screened to determine if they are appropriate to take part in the program. Immigrants who don’t present a threat to public safety will be considered for this type of monitoring system. If the ICE finds that there is success with the RGV 250 program it could then be expanded.
The Alternatives to Detention Program
Border Patrol agents detain over 68,000 immigrants traveling along the Mexican Border and the majority of the families were from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Most of these families could not be returned to their countries right away and were placed in a program called Alternatives to Detention. The government utilizes the program to follow these cases, which can take several years to resolve. There are over 429,000 cases awaiting to be heard in federal immigration court and many of these cases are registered to various ICE programs ranging from telephone check ins to using GPS devices.
Moreover, the Alternatives to Detention program, along with RGV 250, has been more cost effective than utilizing jails to detain immigrant families. Advocates of both programs are hopeful that the ICE will be able to make use of the GPS tracking program, as an alternative to imprisonment, for over 29,000 immigrants in 2015.
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