No love for ankle monitors on captured immigrants


Associated Press

EL PASO, TEXAS

Federal authorities’ shift away from separating immigrant families caught in the U.S. illegally now means that many parents and children are quickly released, only to be fitted with electronic monitoring devices – a practice which both the government and advocacy groups oppose for different reasons.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is issuing thousands of 5.5-ounce ankle monitors that immigrants call grilletes, or electronic shackles, spelling big profits for GEO Group, the country’s second-largest private prison contractor.

Government officials say the devices are effective in getting people to show up to immigration court, but that they stop working once deportation proceedings begin. The reason, according to attorneys and people who wore the devices or helped monitor those wearing them: Some immigrants simply ditch them and disappear.

Immigrant advocates and legal experts argue, meanwhile, that the devices – commonly used for criminal parolees – are inappropriate and inhumane for people seeking U.S. asylum. The American Bar Association has called doing so “a form of restriction on liberty similar to detention, rather than a meaningful alternative to detention.”

Congress first established the program in 2002, though GPS monitors grew more common as deportations rose to record levels under President Barack Obama’s administration, averaging more than 385,000 annually from 2008-12. Their use increased even more after 2014, when thousands of unaccompanied minors and families began traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border and asking for asylum.

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