ICE Alternatives to Detention Programs

The Enforcement and Removals Operation (ERO) within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is res­pon­si­ble for managing detention as well as individuals and families released from ICE detention into the interior of the United States while their cases are pending or removal is deferred for other reasons. ICE refers to this group of now over three million persons as their "non-detained docket." A relatively small number out of those on ICE's non-de­tained docket are assigned to one of several "alternatives to detention" (ATD) programs for closer monitoring. This is achieved through the use of technology or more frequent check-ins with ICE. The remainder not assigned to an ATD program on this non-detained docket may -- at ICE's discretion -- only be required to check in with ICE once or so a year.

Initial use of ATD by ICE began in FY 2004, and the technologies used have evolved over time. See Congressional Research Service July 2019 report for additional history and details. Currently, the main technologies include the use of ankle bracelets that employ GPS location monitoring, smart phone applications (SmartLINK) that utilize both facial recognition and GPS location monitoring, and telephonic reporting using frequent telephone check-ins (TR or voiceID). Once assigned to an ATD program, people on average remain under ATD monitoring for several years.

Responsibility for managing individuals assigned to ATD programs is divided among ICE ERO field offices that divide the country into areas of responsibility, commonly referred to as AORs.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University uses the Freedom of Information Act (ICE) to make monthly request for detailed ICE anonymized records on each person in custody or assigned to an ATD program, as well as others on the non-detained docket. ICE has yet to furnish any specific details on those assigned to an ATD program so only more limited aggregate statistics are now available. TRAC's aim in requesting these data is to be able publish both reports and online tools to allow the public to see better understand the full dimensions of these programs, including the characteristics of who is being placed on ATD programs and how long they remain, which programs are being used, each program's effectiveness, and how use varies geographically.