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Democrats in Congress are calling on the Biden administration to reduce the number of immigrants enrolled in a controversial surveillance program and rethink the federal government’s exclusive contract with the private company managing the program, The Guardian reports.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the lawmakers demand urgent changes to the intensive supervision appearance program (Isap), an effort introduced in 2004 as a “humane alternative” to immigration detention.
Led by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), 25 lawmakers say the program is punitive, often subjecting immigrants to years of surveillance, and has failed to accomplish its stated purpose of reducing the number of immigrants in detention. Instead, immigrants who would otherwise be released are being subjected to electronic monitoring.
“Between 2006 to 2021, Isap’s budget increased from $28 million to $475 million, while the detention budget increased from $1 billion to $2.8 bllion,” the Democrats' letter reads. Immigration authorities “cannot reasonably call Isap an ‘alternative to detention’ if the program effectively subjects more immigrants to the agency’s supervision while it simultaneously expands formal detention programs.”
Tlaib said, “Our country must move away from policies that unnecessarily detain immigrants en masse – policies that only exist to satiate the narratives of race-baiting nativist activists and enrich the private prison and detention and surveillance industrial complex corporations.”
Managing Isap on behalf of ICE is BI Inc, a subsidiary of the Geo Group, one of the nation’s largest private prison corporations.
Under the program, immigrants enrolled can go home rather than remain detained after having sought asylum or having been detained, but they are assigned a “supervision” regime by ICE.
The regime must include one type of electronic monitoring – an ankle monitor, facial recognition check-ins to a smartphone app, or leaving voice messages to be analyzed by voice recognition.
Some 182,000 immigrants are enrolled in the program, making it the largest supervision program of any federal law enforcement agency. The Biden administration has plans to expand the number of people that can be enrolled and test the addition of a new, stricter level of surveillance that would require immigrants in Isap to stay home for 12 hours a day. , according to Reuters.