The federal government is rolling out a national plan to put electronic tethers on illegal immigrants — easing overcrowding in jails and allowing closer monitoring of immigrants who might otherwise skip court hearings or deportation proceedings, says the Detroit Free Press. This month, 11 illegal immigrants in Michigan were given electronic ankle bracelets, with more immigrants scheduled to be removed from jails in three counties. About 180,000 of the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants have been detained since Oct. 1.
The program signals the strain the immigration service is under as it tries to carry out new antiterrorism programs that have resulted in more detentions of immigrants. Lawyers for jailed immigrants said the new program will allow their clients to spend their last months in the United States with their families, instead of languishing in jail at a cost to taxpayers of roughly $80 a day.
In Detroit, where hundreds of mostly Arab visitors have been fingerprinted and some detained as part of a controversial national registration program, three county jails that house immigrants are in a space crunch. Because of a backlog of cases in Detroit’s immigration court, immigrants are waiting in jail for months before a hearing, their lawyers said. The government can detain an immigrant for up to 9 months before a federal judge has the power to order a release.
The program will be offered primarily to immigrants with no violent criminal past. Immigrants with tethers will have curfews, and may only be allowed to leave the house for work, religious services or doctor visits. The tether sends an electronic signal through the immigrants’ home phone that lets the government know when the immigrant enters or leaves his house.
Some immigration-control advocates said the best way to relieve overcrowding at jails is to build more federal detention centers to house illegal immigrants.