Immigrants face challenges long after they are released by the U.S. government. Tens of thousands of migrant adults, including most asylum-seekers, are required to wear electronic tracking bracelets around their ankles at all times.
One asylum-seeker, whose lawyer asked to have his name withheld, has been required to wear an ankle monitor for more than a year. The monitor needed to be charged three times a day to prevent a loud “low battery” warning. He was fired from his job at a construction site after his boss heard his monitor go off during work. His boss feared that it put undocumented employees at risk for deportation, according to the Texas Tribune.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has dramatically expanded its use of ankle monitors to ensure that pretrial migrants appear for their scheduled court hearings, according to research by Pew Charitable Trusts.
The ankle monitors are an integral part of the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP), which has a 99 percent success rate for ensuring that migrants show up to court, according to ICE.
The device costs about $5 a day per immigrant and is cost-effective, according to ICE spokesperson, Matthew Bourke. However, immigrants wearing ankle monitors and advocates alike have expressed concerns.
Jose Santos Garcia, a 27-year-old asylum-seeker from El-Salvador who is enrolled in the ISAP program is one of them. “At least for me, it’s humiliating…it’s like some prisoners on house arrest,” he said. “Just for entering another country, looking for opportunity, I have to carry this.”
The ISAP program is administered by BI Incorporated, a subsidiary of the for-profit GEO Group, through a five year contract worth tens of millions of dollars. Bourke said that immigrants can follow up with their case officer after the initial fitting if they experience any subsequent discomfort or physical injuries.
Hector Hernandez, a 38-year-old migrant, confirmed that an ISAP worker asked him if he wanted his monitor loosened around his ankle.
Bourke also clarified that ankle monitors are not assigned to children, pregnant women, or people with certain medical conditions.
Back in 2016, a coalition of advocacy groups filed a civil rights complaint reporting that the ankle monitors caused problems such as bleeding, electrical shocks and discomfort.
While people on both sides agree ankle monitors are a better solution than immigration detention, civil rights advocates would like to see the return of a previous successful case-management program. According to Bourke, the ICE spokesman, the family case-management program costs $36 a day per immigrant.
In 2017, the Trump administration discontinued that program which paired immigrant families with a social worker to assist them with the asylum-seeking process.
Both the ankle monitors and the case-management program are less expensive than immigration detention centers. Yet the Trump administration is actively expanding the detention centers, as part of a larger crackdown on illegal immigration, according to the Texas Tribune.