The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed to Reuters that a private jail corporation will manage a new U.S. pilot program that will place hundreds of migrants apprehended crossing the U.S.-Mexico border under house arrest, a method that opponents argue is an extension of for-profit imprisonment.
According to a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security and two senior United States officials, BI Incorporated, a subsidiary of the private prison business GEO Group, will administer the so-called “home curfew” trial program.
Immigrants who join in the program would be required to remain at their place of residency in the United States for a minimum of 12 hours per day and would be electronically monitored while awaiting their court appearances.
Reuters and other news sites reported on the new scheme last week, which will normally force immigrants to remain in their homes from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.
The Biden administration has significantly increased the availability of so-called “alternatives to jail,” such as ankle bands and mobile phone tracking. A private jail business was chosen to manage the home curfew trial program, demonstrating how private companies may maintain a strong presence in the world of immigration enforcement and detention.
Rather than commenting, GEO Group referred queries to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which supervises immigration detention and is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). When asked about the initiative, a representative for the Department of Homeland Security said it was part of “impactful detention changes.”
Following his inauguration as President of the United States in January 2021, Democrat Joe Biden signed an executive order phasing out private prison contracts for federal prisoners in order to “remove profit-based incentives” to incarceration and combat systematic racism.
Biden, on the other hand, has so far failed to follow through on a campaign vow to do the same for immigration detention.
In federal detention centers, there are currently 21,000 aliens detained, an increase from 19,000 on September 30, 2020, before Biden assumed office. As a result of COVID-19, immigration detention institutions are operating at a lower than normal capacity.
The current incarceration population is nevertheless far smaller than the pre-COVID levels under former President Donald Trump, a Republican and staunch immigration hardliner who was in office from January 2017 to March 2018.
The Biden administration has closed two immigration detention centers and directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to reduce the scope of those who are targeted for arrest, with a particular emphasis on severe criminals.
In the wake of President Joe Biden’s executive order on jails and the prospect of fewer immigrants being held in detention, two of the country’s largest private prison companies, CoreCivic (CXW.N) and GEO Group (GEO.N), have been exploring detention alternatives, including remote monitoring, as a means of generating additional revenue, according to transcripts of recent conference calls.
According to ICE data, around 164,000 immigrants are currently enrolled in alternative-to-detention programs, which is roughly double the number of immigrants enrolled on September 30, 2020, before Biden entered office.
According to a story published last week by Reuters, the administration is requesting funds for up to 400,000 new participants.
The administration of such programs was assigned to BI by the federal government in 2020 for a total of $2.2 billion, according to federal contracting records.
In response, CoreCivic contested the contract, claiming that it had suggested a lower price for the service, according to a subsequent United States government report – a sign of increasing competition in the remote monitoring sector.
The president had to deal with a record-high number of attempted border crossings during his first year in office. The attempted border crossings have become a target for anti-immigrant Republicans in the run-up to the November 8 midterm elections.
Despite the fact that a COVID-19 public health order is in place at the border, which permits officers to quickly remove the vast majority of those who cross illegally, thousands of people continue to enter the nation to file immigration claims.
According to a recent ICE letter addressed to lawmakers and seen by Reuters, adult asylum seekers will be among the several hundred migrants participating in the home arrest pilot program, which will be tried in Houston and Baltimore, among other cities.
Ankle bracelets and other measures of monitoring, according to immigrant rights advocates, are increasing surveillance of immigrants while doing little to reduce incarceration.
It was also revealed in the ICE memo that the Biden administration is repurposing the federal government’s three family detention centers to house solely adults. The CoreCivic and GEO Group, which administer two of the sites in Texas, will continue to manage the facilities in the future.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Jacinta Gonzalez, a campaign organizer for Mijente, an immigrant advocacy organization, said of the announcement. “[However], the plan was for them to close down, not for them to change their appearance.”