Vast immigration surveillance program in dire need of reform, lawmakers tell Biden administration

US lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to reduce the number of immigrants enrolled in a controversial surveillance program and rethink the US government’s exclusive contract with the private company managing the program.

In a letter to the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, the group of Democratic lawmakers demands urgent changes to the intensive supervision appearance program (Isap), an effort introduced in 2004 as a “humane alternative” to immigration detention.

Led by Representative Rashida Tlaib, the 25 lawmakers say the program is punitive, often subjecting immigrants to years of surveillance, and has failed to accomplish its stated purpose of reducing the number of immigrants in detention. Instead, the lawmakers say, immigrants who would otherwise be released are being subjected to electronic monitoring.

“Between 2006 to 2021, Isap’s budget increased from $28m to $475m, while the detention budget increased from $1bn to $2.8bn,” the letter reads. Immigration authorities “cannot reasonably call Isap an ‘alternative to detention’ if the program effectively subjects more immigrants to the agency’s supervision while it simultaneously expands formal detention programs.”

“People coming to America are simply seeking a chance at a better life just as countless others have before them, and want nothing more than a safe place to live and raise their families,” Tlaib said in a statement. “Our country must move away from policies that unnecessarily detain immigrants en masse – policies that only exist to satiate the narratives of race-baiting nativist activists and enrich the private prison and detention and surveillance industrial complex corporations.”

Managing Isap on behalf of Ice is BI Inc, a subsidiary of the Geo Group, one of the US’s largest private prison corporations.

As the program exists today, immigrants enrolled can go home rather than remain detained after having sought asylum or…

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