Last summer, at the height of which Border Patrol and ICE were dropping off migrant families at the Greyhound station, I teamed up with dozens of volunteers and faith based groups to form a coordinated response to the needs we saw. I’ve shared in previous editions of Arizona Bilingual how that work evolved. Currently, Catholic Community Services is operating our intake center in a house they own, and with the help of one of their staffers and the volunteers, the families are being assisted with their travel arrangements.
Last week, the Feds changed the way they’re treating these women and their children. I contacted the local ICE representative for confirmation. This is the official statement she passed along:
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) makes custody determinations on a case-by-case basis with a priority for detention of serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety. Those who are not subject to mandatory detention and don’t pose a threat to the community may be placed on some form of supervision as part of ICE’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program.
The ATD program is used to increase compliance with release conditions, court appearances and final orders of removal while allowing participants to remain in their community as they move through immigration proceedings.
Currently, individuals apprehended and released from ICE custody from sites along the border may be enrolled in ATD and assigned GPS monitoring with instructions to report to the designated ICE office nearest their destination city. Upon arrival at their final destination, the local ICE office responsible for managing their case will make any further determinations with regards to continued enrollment in the ATD program and the appropriate level of case management.
Every ATD participant enrolled prior to release from the Southwest Border is monitored as they travel across the country.”
To be clear, Congress adopted this Alternatives to Detention program back in 2002. Evaluating whether or not a person is to be incarcerated, or allowed to remain out of prison include: criminal history, and importantly to me, “humanitarian concerns and community ties.” Both of those are relevant to the families we’ve been seeing fleeing Guatemala.
From a humanitarian perspective, these are largely women who (due to the lethal threats they experienced against themselves and their children) risked their lives to get to family in the U.S. We’ve heard the stories of gang related threats, beatings, rapes, robberies, and more. These are not migrant farm workers. They’re asylum seekers.
Also to be clear, everybody who is placed on ATD is not required to be fitted with an ankle bracelet, electronic monitoring device. It’s just now that the Feds have decided to implement that policy. It comes at a financial cost to the taxpayers, and it is being applied to women who have been through hell to get a chance at a new life for their kids.
The future of Project Mariposa is uncertain. Border Patrol is assessing whether to by-pass Tucson, and take the families directly to a Phoenix center where a contractor would ‘enroll’ them in the monitoring program. This is how the process was described in the policy statement sent to me last week:
Each qualifying alien selected for GPS monitoring is referred immediately to the contractor on site for an abbreviated enrollment that includes:
• Device assignment, attachment, and activation;
• Explanation of care, maintenance, and requirements of the GPS unit;
• Record creation in the monitoring program;
• Reporting date, location requirements, and program expectations.
Note that there’s no comment about ‘care’ for the people involved.
If you have been involved in supporting Project Mariposa and feel as I do that placing electronic monitoring devices on these women is a dehumanizing and inappropriate way to manage their circumstances, I’d invite you to share your thoughts with ICE. Failing a community response of some significance, the work we’ve been doing over the past year will come to an end and the families will become a part of the program described above. The contact person who has been sharing the policy change with me can be reached at Yasmeen.PittsOkeefe@ice.dhs.gov. Please be courteous. She has been very forthcoming in passing along the information, and is not the decision maker in this.