The call to end immigration detention has garnered strong support in recent years due to a growing public awareness of its devastating impact on the individuals locked away, their families, and entire communities. Throughout the nation, communities, organizers, advocates, and public officials have demanded the shutdown of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, particularly those operated by private prison companies.

However, less attention has been paid to another form of detention that has been insidiously expanding alongside ICE’s brick-and-mortar jails: the Intensive Supervision Assistance Program (ISAP), the primary component of ICE’s so-called “Alternatives to Detention” program. ISAP surveils, monitors, and restricts immigrants by using invasive and evolving forms of technology. Like much of ICE’s sprawling detention system, ISAP is fueled by a multi-billion-dollar contract with the subsidiary of a private prison corporation that profits from detaining and surveilling immigrants. One of the most common and dehumanizing forms of surveillance in ISAP is a GPS enabled ankle monitor that shackles individuals both visibly and invisibly.

This report recommends that ICE immediately wind down ISAP and cease its use of electronic ankle shackles, first by removing them from all individuals currently subject to ISAP. To the extent that ankle shackles continue being used while phasing out ISAP, the administration should mandate ICE to track the data needed to prevent discriminatory practices; provide both a clear written justification and review process when deciding to subject an individual to ankle shackles; and allow those subject to ankle shackles to secure employment, participate in family and community activities, and seek medical treatment. This report also recommends a severance of the link between immigration enforcement and service provision through community-based programs, as well as allocation of government funding for community support and legal representation services.

As the harms of electronic ankle shackling demonstrate, ISAP is by no means an acceptable reform to the existing detention apparatus; rather it is another form of confinement that must be dismantled alongside physical detention. While the coercive and dehumanizing shackling of humans is unacceptable in any form, the data demonstrating the comparable or superior efficacy of more holistic intervention also lay bare the animus and profit motives at the heart of ICE’s shackling regime. Ending shackling is not just good policy; it is an issue of racial, economic, and health justice.

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Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic, Freedom for Immigrants & Immigrant Defense Project


Immigration Law