Human rights groups are calling on the Biden administration and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) to end a digital surveillance program that monitors nearly 100,000 immigrants.
A new report called Ice Digital Prisons, written by organizing group Latinx Mijente and immigration legal rights group Just Futures Law, highlights how Ice uses apps, GPS-tracked ankle monitors, and facial recognition software to monitor people. , saying that these tactics “do more harm and inhibit any real progress in providing social and economic tools for immigrants to prosper in their communities.”
The report says that the use of such technologies further criminalizes immigrants and affects their social and economic well-being.
The Biden administration is under increasing pressure to correct the mistakes of the Trump administration’s immigration policies and keep families out of detention centers. One of his solutions has been to emphasize the importance of funding digital methods for tracking immigrants rather than physically incarcerating them. The digital alternatives program has been growing in recent years, and funding increased from $ 28 million in 2006 to $ 440 million in 2021.
The “alternatives to detention” program tracks 96,574 people, but the Biden administration’s 2022 budget request calls for increasing that number by roughly 45,000 to 140,000.
These alternatives “Supporting migrants as they navigate their legal obligations,” the Biden administration has said, and are intended to be less harmful alternatives to physical detention. But Julie Mao, Just Futures Law’s immigration attorney and editor of the report, said that’s not the case.
“There are so many ways that ankle shackles cause physical and emotional harm to people,” he said. “It is deeply stigmatizing to have the ankle monitor, it can create sores, it has to be carried frequently. Having that with you 24/7 creates a lot of mental strain on people. “
In addition to ankle monitors, immigrants are forced to consent to unscheduled home and office visits, contact immigration officials through a smartphone app or phone, or some combination of the three as part of the program.
One such app, called SmartLINK, requires immigrants to register by uploading a selfie for facial recognition while confirming their location. The app “raises a number of privacy and surveillance concerns,” the study says, as it has the ability to monitor the user’s location in real time.
Despite being presented as an alternative, the report stressed that digital surveillance can, in many cases, ultimately lead to an arrest in real life, due to minor errors made in the application or technological problems with check-in. mandatory of an immigrant.
Ice has, in some cases, used data from the Alternatives to Detention program to track immigrants for arrest. In 2019, historical data of ankle bracelets. it was used to raid Koch Foods in Mississippi, resulting in the arrest of more than 600 people.
“Lawmakers and advocates must reject calls to invest in prison alternatives to detention programs and focus on solutions that end all forms of immigration detention and surveillance,” the report said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism