Published May 31, 2023
ICE’s latest data on the number of immigrants monitored by the agency’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program is inaccurate and misleading, which continues a pattern of sloppy data releases that the agency appears unable or unwilling to resolve. ICE’s latest data, posted on their website on May 26, 2023, claims that 235,890 immigrants are in ATD—a plausible number based on the fact that the prior data from early in May showed 242,418 immigrants in the program.
However, ICE’s data claim that 188,934 immigrants out of the total are monitored on GPS ankle monitors, up from 4,576 earlier in the month—and forty-one-fold increase in mere weeks! The data also claim that 34,576 immigrants are monitored on the smartphone app SmartLINK, down from 224,300 earlier this month. These numbers are highly implausible and are unlikely to reflect reality. See comparison below.
What is more likely is that ICE has—once again—published faulty data on its Alternatives to Detention program as part of a longstanding pattern of misleading the public about how many migrants the agency is monitoring and which technology the agency is using to do so. It is not as if the agency is unaware of these problems. TRAC has reported on the Biden administration’s ATD data fumbles for quite some time. In September of last year, TRAC published a detailed report on errors with a long list of examples of misleading data postings.
Then, in the fall of 2022, ICE committed its biggest errors yet: the agency falsely reported that GPS ankle monitor usage had increased dramatically between August and December, leading to widespread confusion about the program. Then, when TRAC’s requested underlying data, the agency claimed it could find no records to substantiate its public data (see TRAC’s announcements in December and January). ICE’s frequent and ongoing data errors further undermine public trust in the agency.
Even more significantly, since the private contractor named BI, Inc. that provides this data charges the agency more per immigrant on GPS than on SmartLINK, wrongful reporting could lead to significant overcharging. The current data posted by ICE shows that the daily tech cost for GPS ankle monitors provided by BI, Inc. amounts to $517,000—or over half a million dollars—a day just for GPS ankle monitors. This is up significantly from the $229,000 a day for the cost of all forms of ATD monitoring mere weeks ago.
Based on data that TRAC received earlier this year, TRAC found that the inaccurate data that ICE is posting online is consistent with data provided to the agency by the private contractor. However, ICE appears to be conducting not so much as a cursory validation check before posting these data online, which raises concerns about what other kinds of data the agency is posting with errors. Hopefully the agency is paying closer attention to invoices from the contractor, or the taxpayer could be absorbing considerable financial cost due to the Biden administration’s inattention to basic accuracy.
Although the data should be treated cautiously, updated data from ICE’s other detention data include the following highlights:
Due to ICE’s errors, TRAC is not able to update the data on ATD. The most recent numbers in TRAC’s Quick Facts tool are as follows: