US
Human rights group calls on Biden to end 'alternative to detention' program for migrants
The report - entitled ‘Ice Digital Prisons' - was published by Latino organizing group Mijente and Just Futures Law, an immigration-focused legal rights group.

Latino-focused human rights groups are calling on the Biden administration and US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to end a digital surveillance program that monitors nearly 100,000 immigrants, saying that the tactics "do more harm and inhibit any true progress."

The report - entitled ‘Ice Digital Prisons' - was published by Latino organizing group Mijente and Just Futures Law, an immigration-focused legal rights group.

Since 2004, ICE has undertaken a number of surveillance programs that are operated by private, for-profit companies, which the report says are aimed at "extending incarceration beyond the walls of detention centers."

"[The programs] do not provide resources like access to education, housing and legal services for immigrant communities to thrive," the report said. "The technologies that these programs employ only further entrench the criminalization of immigration and pose barriers to social and economic wellbeing."

According to the report, 96,574 people were subject to ICE's ‘Alternatives to Detention' program. The program, however, does not mean that the number of people in ICE detention has been reduced, with the agency's budget increasing from $28 million in 2006 to $440 million in 2021.

The agency' budget for detention, on the other hand, rose from $1 billion to $2.8 billion.

Additionally, the Biden administration's 2022 budget requests calls for increasing the number of individuals in the program to 140,000.

The program, however, does not mean that the number of people in ICE detention has been reduced, with the agency's budget increasing from $28 million in 2006 to $440 million in 2021.

"Many individuals are subject to ICE's supervision than would be without the program," the report notes. "For example, asylum seekers who would have previously been released from detention and not responsible for reporting to the agency are often incorporated into the program, expanding its reach."

The program - officially known as the ICE ATD-ISAP - consists of a variety of components and surveillance methods, ranging from home and office visits to electronic GPS monitoring and facial recognition through an application known as SmartLINK.

"These e-carceration exact physical and emotional harm on the immigrants subjected to these surveillance technologies, such as wounds from the ankle shackle or the psychological weight of ICE tracking a person's movement and personal interactions."

These alternatives to detention, however, formed part of Biden's immigration platform as a presidential candidate.

"[These] programs, which support migrants as navigate their legal obligations, are the best way to ensure that they attend all required immigration appointments," the platform said.

"These programs also enable migrants to live in dignity while awaiting their court hearings - facilitating things like doctor visits, social services for children," the report added. "Evidence shows that these programs are highly effective and far less expensive and punitive than detaining families."

The Mijente and Just Futures Law report, however, argues that the that the alternatives "do more harm and inhibit any true progress in providing the social and economic tools for immigrants to thrive in their communities."

The Biden administration's 2022 budget requests calls for increasing the number of individuals in the program to 140,000

"These programs further show the links between the immigration and criminal systems and the profit motivations in tying these systems together," the report said. "Policymakers and advocates should reject calls to invest in carceral alternatives to detention programs and focus on solutions that put an end to all for all forms of immigrant surveillance and detention."

Over the last several months, the Biden administration has come under intense pressure to undue Trump-era immigration policies.

Earlier this week, for example, the administration formally ended the ‘Remain in Mexico' policy that formed a key part of the Trump administration's immigration policy and forced asylum seekers to wait across the border for the results of their immigration court proceedings

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