Tuesday, May 24

USA tracks immigrants without papers with an application | Digital Trends Spanish


The US authorities are controlling the stay of immigrants through an application called SmartLink. According The San Diego Union-TribuneMore than 125,000 people – most detained on the Mexican border – have had to install the app on their phones, up from 5,000 less than three years ago.

With this app, the authorities can follow the steps of the people who installed it, and can require them to send a selfie or make or receive a call when asked. In this way, the tool guarantees that people without papers appear at their corresponding hearings, which could lead to their deportation.

Eduardo Munoz Avarez/Associated Press

Since many government services have been managed online due to the pandemic, the use of the application by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) has increased in recent times. And it kept doing so when President Joe Biden asked the Justice Department to reduce the use of private prisons.

Since the pandemic began, the authorities have reduced the number of immigrants detained and promoted the use of alternatives, such as the aforementioned application.

In a beginning, Smart Link it was seen as a less burdensome alternative to electronic anklets for immigrants being released from detention. But according to Julie Mao, deputy director of the immigrant rights organization Just Futures, it is now used more widely, including on immigrants with no criminal record and who have not been detained.

In the past, immigrants only had to periodically contact the authorities. And now, most do, but some don’t. In those cases, immigration judges issue deportation orders and agents must locate these people and send them back to their country.

According to court statistics, in fiscal year 2018, roughly a quarter of rulings by immigration judges were orders for the deportation of people who had failed to show up for appointments.

On the other hand, the number of cases pending in the immigration courts has risen to 1.6 million, with defendants sometimes having to wait years to see a judge to determine whether or not they can stay in the country.

Women using their cell phones.

SmartLink is a product of BI Inc., a subsidiary of the private prison company The GEO Group. This company, which manages ICE detention centers, said in a statement that “it is an effective way to track released non-citizens” pending resolution of their processes.

On the other hand, the government has said that SmartLink is a much cheaper option than detaining a person. Using the app costs them about $4.36 a day, compared to $140 a day for an arrest.

According to Mackenzie Mackins, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles, the application also improves the situation of immigrants who wear electronic anklets, since they irritate the skin and from time to time generate a loud sound. So the mobile tool is less painful and more discreet. In addition, she mentions that the anklets made her clients feel like they were seen as criminals.

SmartLink, however, can be a heavy burden for immigrants who fear a technological glitch will prevent them from contacting authorities when they’re supposed to. Roseanne Flores, a paralegal at Hilf and Hilf in Troy, Michigan, said she has received calls from clients scared that the application was not working, so they had to appear in person before immigration agents.

Likewise, for activists who support immigrants, the use of the application is wrong in several ways. On the one hand, they say that forcing them to use SmartLink is unfair, given that many have posted bail and waited for the immigration courts to hear their cases, plus it takes away their privacy and makes them feel like they are not free.

And on the other hand, they worry that agents will follow the footsteps of immigrants through SmartLink much more closely than thought, as well as commercial applications, which track the location of people through their phones. . They fear the government will use whereabouts and contact information collected by the app to round up foreigners without papers.

Even so, the use of the application does not seem to stop. “It is amazing that in a couple of years the use of this application has increased so much and that now it is used a lot and everywhere,” says Jacinta González, senior campaign director for the Hispanic rights organization Mijente. “It makes it much easier for the government to track a lot more people.”

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