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Using GPS Ankle Monitors, Smartwatches to Monitor Immigrants in the U.S. Continues to Rise

As of March 2024, the number of migrants who are electronically monitored, including with GPS, total 183,935 families and single individuals.

This summary was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

As misinformation continues to spread about U.S. immigration statistics and what’s going on at the border Texas shares with Mexico, we thought it important to bring you up to speed with ICE’s latest detention data and some facts from the agency itself — thanks to TRAC’s new report.

New U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention data, released late March, shows a drop in the number of detainees in the agency’s custody — to 36,931 people. This is a decline of slightly over 2,000 from the prior detention figures released in early March, TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, detailed in a new report.

A significant factor in the reduction in the number of detainees is as a result of a reported decline in the number of detainees U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended. 

Also Read: Fear Across Borders: Chinese Americans and the Shadow of Surveillance

From March 10 to March 24, the tally of CBP-arrested detainees decreased from 27,623 to 24,248, while those arrested by ICE saw a slight increase from 11,488 to 11,683.

However, ICE has continued to use other alternatives to detention.

As of March 23, 2024, the number of migrants who are electronically monitored are 183,935 families and single individuals.

In addition to that, ICE use of GPS smartwatches — introduced in the summer of 2023 — continues to rise.

A total of 365 cases of ICE using GPS smartwatches to monitor migrants were reported three weeks ago, and it has now increased to 572, according to the latest data from ICE.

Additionally, the number of migrants wearing GPS ankle monitors, which had decreased to under 5,000 in June 2023, seems to have increased to 18,518.

Previous reports from TRAC have highlighted concerns regarding the accuracy of ICE’s public data for its alternatives to detention (ATD) program, particularly regarding the accuracy of data regarding migrants ICE uses GPS ankle monitors to monitor.

It’s important to note that out of the total of 36,931 individuals that ICE is detaining, 23,745 —or 64.3% — had no criminal record. Additionally, many others had only minor offenses, including traffic violations.

ICE has primarily used detention facilities in Texas to house the most people during Fiscal Year 2024.

While ‘South Texas Family Residential Center’ in Dilley, Texas, held the largest number of ICE detainees so far in FY 2024, averaging 1,849 individuals per day; San Francisco’s area office has the highest number in ICE’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) monitoring programs.

  • An important article that sheds more light on ICE alternative to detention (ATD) programs is this Documented & The MarkUp collaborative piece: “Meet SmartLink, the app tracking nearly a quarter million immigrants.” ICE says the phone-based app is not meant to conduct “surveillance”—and a quick test didn’t raise red flags. But immigrants and privacy advocates aren’t convinced.

Read TRAC’s full report and check out their Quick Fact Tools.

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