The Department of Homeland Security is experimenting with a controversial new method to keep better track of immigrants who are applying to remain in the United States. It is requiring aliens in eight cities to wear electronic monitors 24 hours a day.
Sarah Barry fled Liberia's civil war in the early 1990s. She's now awaiting a decision on her appeal of a government deportation order. Barry says she's glad to be able to wear an ankle monitor. Hear why:
The ankle bracelets are the same monitors that some rapists and other convicted criminals have to wear on parole. But the government's pilot project is putting monitors on aliens who have never been accused of a crime.
So far, the Department of Homeland Security has put electronic monitors on more than 1,700 immigrants. Victor Cerda, director of Detention and Removal Operations at Homeland Security, says the anklets will help prevent tens of thousands of immigrants who are ordered to leave the country each year from "absconding" — going into hiding to avoid deportation.
A three-year pilot program in New York City tested how supervision affected immigrants' rates of appearance in court and compliance with court rulings. The program found that supervision — regular phone calls from program workers, reminders about court dates, referrals to legal representatives and other such measures — is more cost effective than detention and almost doubles the rate of compliance — and they didn't use any electronic monitors.
But critics say Cerda and other Homeland Security officials have exaggerated the extent of the problem. They point to a Justice Department study that put part of the blame on immigration officials, saying they'd failed to keep adequate records to track aliens.
A 2003 Justice Department report blamed U.S. immigration officials for failing to take adequate steps to remove non-detained aliens.