Record Number of Migrants Now in Surveillance Program (David Ryder/Getty Images)
By Jeffrey Rodack | Friday, 12 November 2021 09:48 AM
A surveillance program, designed as an alternative to traditional detention, is monitoring a record 136,026 migrants, The Hill is reporting.
The number is an increase from the 86,000 migrants who were being monitored at the start of the year.
The surveillance is part of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP).
It was started in 2004 to monitor those people in removal proceedings through a combination of home and field office visits, court tracking, and electronic surveillance, according to The Hill.
Those in the program must either wear ankle monitors, make use of a voice reporting system, or use an app called SmartLINK.
"It looks like the growth really started after Joe Biden took office," Austin Kocher, a research associate professor at Syracuse University who tracks immigration figures, told The Hill. "The administration is somewhat loath to have detention numbers go too high because they were low during the pandemic, for good reason."
Peter Markowitz, director of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at Yale Law School, voiced concern about the program.
"Too many people in this administration, and in past administrations, have seen these types of electronic surveillance programs as relatively harmless, effective alternatives to immigration detention," he said. "I think what we see is that they're neither harmless nor really alternatives to detention."
Those in ISAP spend an average of 615.1 days in the program, billed as an alternative to detention, The Hill said. Still, the number of immigrants in ICE custody has grown almost twofold to over 22,000 at the same time that those in ISAP have also increased.
And immigrant rights groups have called for ISAP to be discontinued.
"We are steadfast in that we must end the criminalization of immigration," Aly Panjwani, a Take Back Tech fellow at Just Futures Law, said. "We can't replace these brick and mortar prisons with high-tech ones because it's just perpetuating the same carceral approach to immigration that the [Department of Homeland Security] has had since its founding."
In just the last 10 months, 108,195 migrants have sought asylum in Mexico, Andres Ramirez, director of the country’s refugee office said. The figure represents a 73% increase from the same period in 2019, which recorded the previous record high.