It costs under $10 daily to monitor immigration detainees electronically, but federal officials pay $320 per night to detain them in jail. Already, 84,000 undocumented migrants use ankle bracelets or smartphone check-ins.
The Trump administration faces the same challenge as its predecessors: how to ensure the tens of thousands of unauthorized immigrant families who are apprehended each year show up for their hearings. President Trump wants to lock more of them up. Immigrant advocates want him to expand alternatives to detention, which are widely in use, reports NPR. Some 84,000 undocumented migrants are enrolled in electronic monitoring, either an ankle bracelet or a smartphone check-in that uses voice recognition. The administration is paying for 40,000 private contracted detention beds this year, a 3 percent increase over last year. A mammoth immigrant jail is under construction near Houston.
“Certainly, confinement sends a very, very strong message,” said Tracey Valerio, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement official. “But the agency has had extremely good results in terms of percentage of compliance with the alternatives to detention.” Detention is expensive. The government pays a private contractor $320 dollars per night — as much as a five-star hotel — to detain a mother and her children in what ICE calls a family residential center. An electronic ankle monitor costs $4.12 a day. The ankle monitor program is managed by GEO Care, a subsidiary of the corrections contractor GEO Group that detains thousands of immigrants for ICE. ICE cancelled Family Case Management, which used case workers in five cities to help migrants navigate the immigration court system. The program cost less than $10 a day and had a 99 percent success rate with court appearances. Alternatives to detention have a 99.8 percent success rate in getting people to show up for hearings. If the migrant loses their asylum request and is ordered deported, ankle monitors are not so successful in final removals. Four of ten non-detained immigrants do not show up for their removal.