Recently released reports are showing that the Department of Homeland Security is outfitting illegal immigrants with GPS trackers as a condition for entrance into the country. As border agents apprehend individuals crossing the border without appropriate paperwork, DHS is running a pilot program to keep track of the new arrivals using GPS trackers in the same fashion as house arrest ankle monitors.
The pilot program, referred to as RGV 250, is said to encourage compliance from the immigrant to government orders and, if need be, to track down non-compliant immigrants. Migrants are freed to enter the interior and, with the help of the ankle monitor, are expected to report back for processing. When the migrant reports back, ICE is reportedly said to remove the device allowing the new arrival an unrestricted range of motion. Following the mechanics of an ankle monitor for those placed on house arrest, the GPS tracker would transmit the owner’s location to a receiver.
DHS is claiming that the purpose of the program is only to keep track of the new immigrants. The findings first came to light when advocates of immigration reform met with Department of Homeland Security about their current immigration practices. In that meeting it was revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were tracking illegal aliens using the GPS trackers since the start of December.
According to ICE, the program is conditionally monitoring 250 immigrant household heads apprehended entering the country through the Rio Grande Valley illegally with their families. ICE agents released the immigrants with the devices from custody with a notice of summons to report back, reported The Associated Press. ICE is looking to expand to 29,000 migrants linked with devices by the end of the year.
DHS told the immigration advocates in September that a large number of immigrants allowed to enter the interior of the United States never reported back to immigration once released. 70 percent of families failed to report to immigration offices after being released. The Obama administration purportedly opened a temporary “family jail” at the training academy in New Mexico due to a high prison population. The administration also overhauled a men’s jail in the lone star state to one that would hold families. Political backlash has been directed the president’s way for imprisoning families mostly women with children and for the conditions of the jails.
Jennifer Elzea, ICE spokeswoman, said that all immigrants would be screened to filter out the ones that posed no apparent threat to society. The non-threatening immigrants would be released into the general public with the GPS tracker. The rest would be detained in holding facilities until arraignment or until deportation could be arranged.
In 2014, 68,000 immigrants were detained by Border Patrol agents crossing the Mexican border. A staggering 61,000 of the detainees came from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. They could not be immediately sent back home so they were released with notices to report back and enrollment in one of ICE’s various monitoring programs known as Alternatives to Detention. The program allows for the government to track movements of immigrants while their cases clog immigration courts.
Currently, more than 429,000 cases are backlogged in the federal court system. Thousands of those cases include individuals enrolled in the monitoring program by ICE. Methods of reporting differ from program to program but include regular phone calls to “check in” and the new ankle monitor.
In a bid to cut costs, providing entering immigrants with a conditional release with GPS trackers is said to be a cheaper option than jailing immigrants. The GPS tracker program costs $3.50 a day per person and requires an enrollment fee of $19.50. ICE’s other reporting programs cost roughly $4.28 a day. Jailing detainees costs ICE about $119 a day.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by YBS – Flickr License