• February 26th, 2024
  • Monday, 06:22:33 PM

Immigration Advocates Condemn New ICE Surveillance Technology Pilot Project in Colorado


Jordan García, Program Director for American Friends Service Commitee’s Colorado speaks at a rally in front of ICE's GEO Group detention center in Aurora, Colorado on May 1, 2023. (Photo: AFSC)

 

 

The Colorado Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office last week announced a pilot program deploying a for-profit Bi-Veri wrist device. The obtrusive watch is part of the ICE detention program and combines the use of two technologies, the Smart-link facial recognition application and GPS monitoring, to unnecessarily track and surveil immigrants who are awaiting court dates.

 

“Immigrants overwhelmingly appear in court, including those not enrolled in surveillance programs and those that lack an attorney. When people have access to counsel and case support through a non-profit like ours, the rate of appearance is over 98%. Our tax dollars should go to effective, low-cost programs designed to provide due process and integration services,” said Laura Lunn, Director of Advocacy & Litigation for Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN).

 

Immigrant advocates decry the increasing surveillance, calling on ICE to immediately halt the pilot program and end the practice of testing surveillance technologies on Colorado communities. In fiscal year 2022, congress granted $442.7 million to ICE for non-detained approaches to immigrant case management, which they primarily funneled into Behavioural Interventions Inc (BI), a subsidiary of GEO Group, the world’s second largest for-profit prison corporation.

 

“Congress and ICE throw away millions every year contracting with for-profit organizations instead of investing in humane and effective ways to streamline our process to welcome others. We welcome people every day out of detention, committed to using their freedom to build a life here and to following the process. President Biden must halt this pilot,” says Andrea Loya of Casa de Paz.

 

According to the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), ankle monitors and other invasive technologies have harmful health consequences, inhibit people’s abilities to work and care for their families, and violate civil liberties. They also have not reduced the number of people held in detention and represent an expansion of the detention system rather than an alternative to it. “The true alternative to detention is freedom,” says Amy Goettlib, Just Migration Director for AFSC. “The watch represents an expansion of harmful detention practices. These technologies cause documented negative health and mental health outcomes, including limiting people’s ability to provide for their families due to the stigma associated with being surveilled. Secretary Mayorkas must halt the pilot.”

 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement held a short stakeholder meeting with little notice Monday less than a few hours before announcing the pilot publicly. The following day for-profit contractor BI began calling people in and requiring them to use the new surveillance device.

 

“ICE immediately began rolling out this significant expansion — on Tuesday BI employees suddenly contacted our members, demanding they come in the same day or next morning, and giving no information as to why — sowing fear and uncertainty. These community members have always complied with all requirements in their case and never missed an appointment. Our government now requires them to wear a chunky unusual watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week — spying on people without cause. When people are free, without surveillance, 96% of community members represented by a lawyer attended all of their hearings,” says Jordan García, Program Director for AFSC’s Colorado office. 

 

According to The Markup, “In addition to tracking a person’s location and extracting data about a person’s web browsing, search history, phone and video calls within the app, the MarkUp found that SmartLINK may also record audio and video and enable calls from a person’s phone without their knowledge or consent.”

 

Siena Mann, Campaign Manager with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition explains “ICE’s program is designed to surveil immigrants every single hour of the day, which is inhumane, intrusive and unnecessary. We call on the Biden Administration to halt this pilot and review ICE’s use of funds appropriated for alternatives to detention. ICE and BI have terrible track records of disrespect and dehumanization as detailed in our new report.”

 

 

 

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