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Private prison company to operate ‘home curfew’ pilot program for detained migrants: report

U.S. Border Patrol agents look on after Haitian immigrant families crossed the Rio Grande
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A private prison operator is set to run a pilot program to track immigrants who are placed in house detention rather than in detention facilities.

GEO Group, one of the country’s largest operators of detention facilities, will run the program through its BI Incorporated subsidiary, reported Reuters.

The move is part of the Biden administration’s push to decrease immigrant detention and draw down for-profit incarceration, but it’s still being met by resistance from immigrant rights advocates.

A coalition of immigrant advocacy groups — the National Immigration Project, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Detention Watch Network, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Human Rights First, Community Change Action and FIRM Action — panned the plan Wednesday, saying it would expand the number of immigrants under surveillance by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The Biden administration betrayed promises to immigrant communities yet again this week, with news of an imminent pilot program to experiment with even ‘stricter’ monitoring than immigration surveillance programs already in use,” read a statement from the groups. 

“The pilot would include a regime of house arrest, curfews, and electronic monitoring for 164,000 people. Though framed as an ‘alternative-to-detention,’ we have no reason to believe this harsh ‘e-incarceration’ program would decrease the number of detention centers or the number of people detained in them.”

Under the Biden administration’s plan, immigrants in the house arrest program would have to stay at their designated residence from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

While immigrant detention has grown slightly under President Biden, from about 19,000 at the end of 2020 to around 21,000 today, the number of immigrants in alternative-to-detention programs has essentially doubled to more than 160,000.

The Biden administration expects to include up to 400,000 migrants in the house arrest program.

Most commonly, the U.S. government either detains or keeps close surveillance on immigrants who are apprehended at the border claiming asylum, pending review of their cases.

Immigration detention has also historically housed a significant number of immigrants who are captured in interior enforcement actions and deemed deportable.

The program showcases a difficult balance for the administration between fulfilling its promises to reduce immigrant detention and ultimately end for-profit detention while still managing the upsurge in asylum cases, primarily at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Still, immigrant rights advocates say the administration is putting in place programs that won’t satiate Republican criticisms of Biden’s border policies while alienating Democratic base voters by giving lip service to campaign promises.

And those groups are suspicious of for-profit detention operators, who they perceive as powerful Washington players with outsize leverage on incarceration policy.

“This new e-incarceration program would replicate the perverse incentives of private prisons by funneling millions of federal dollars to private companies to provide the surveillance devices,” wrote the advocacy groups in their statement.

“We will only see the same ugly cycle repeat, with those private companies once again lobbying for punitive and dehumanizing policies in order to increase their profit margin.”

Tags Immigration Joe Biden Mexico migrants private prisons
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