U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently introduced a wrist monitor that uses GPS technology to monitor migrants enrolled in the Alternatives to Detention program. This initiative, which the Biden administration has greatly expanded, supervises migrants who do not pose a risk to public safety or national security, such as asylum-seekers processed along the U.S.-Mexico border. ICE has previously used ankle monitors, phone calls, and a mobile app with face recognition technology to monitor migrants in the alternatives to detention program. As of earlier this month, roughly 250,000 migrants were being monitored under the alternatives to detention initiative, while another 25,000 were detained in ICE’s network of county jails and for-profit prisons, according to agency data.
The watches will be tested on a pilot basis over several weeks and provided to 50 migrant adults facing deportation near Denver. Its use could be expanded depending on how the test period goes.
The watches have a GPS feature and can tell time, receive messages from ICE officials and case managers, and access a calendar of appointments to allow migrants to check in with officials. The watch’s features will be available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian creole, and there are two versions of the watch: one that migrants can take off and another that ICE requires migrants to wear throughout the entire day.
The device is part of the Biden administration’s effort to ensure migrants comply with their immigration proceedings without relying on immigration detention, which has been criticized as inhumane and ineffective. In addition to expanding alternatives to detention, the administration has reshaped ICE’s mission, instructing agents to prioritize the arrest of migrants with serious criminal convictions or who pose a national security risk and recent border-crossers. ICE has also ended mass workplace arrests and generally barred the detention of veterans, victims of serious crimes, pregnant women, and families with minors.