Biden Administration Gives Cell Phones to Migrants at Border to 'Track & Check in' With Them
© REUTERS / JOSE LUIS GONZALEZAsylum-seeking migrants from Central America, who were airlifted from Brownsville to El Paso, Texas, and deported from the U.S., walk towards Mexico at the Paso del Norte International border bridge, in this picture taken from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico March 19, 2021.
© REUTERS / JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ
Earlier, the impending rescinding of Title 42 - an immigration measure invoked under ex-president Donald Trump as COVID-19 swept the country - was slammed by Republicans as “setting the stage for hundreds of thousands more illegal encounters and the continued flow of deadly drugs”.
The administration of US President Joe Biden is handing out cell phones to suspected illegal migrants being released at the US southern border as they await immigration court proceedings.
The White House has argued that the procedure will make it easier for immigration enforcement to track these individuals.
“We need to take steps to ensure that we know where individuals are and we can track and we can check in with them,” WH press secretary Jen Psaki said at her daily briefing.
Psaki added that the phones were to be used exclusively as a tool to monitor parole release migrants.
“The alternatives to detention programs… has three unique forms of technology to monitor participants enrolled in the program,” said Psaki.
She went on to clarify that one of these – Telephonic - uses a participant’s voice to create a biometric voice print during enrolment. When the migrant makes a check-in call, their voice is compared to the voice print.
Another option, SmartLink, enables participant monitoring via smartphone or tablet using facial-matching technology, while Global Positioning System offers monitoring of a participant’s location and movement history using satellite technology through an ankle bracelet.
As to the number of phones being distributed or their models, there is yet no clarity.
The Biden administration has argued that the handing out of smartphones "is all part of our effort as individuals come into the United States and individuals who are entering who will proceed to immigration proceedings to monitor and track where they are."
Psaki extolled the new approach purportedly allowing the "vast, vast majority of people” to appear on time, despite critics arguing that the distributed phones might be easily “tossed”, unlike ankle monitors.
This comes as coronavirus pandemic-era Title 42, allowing for instant expulsion of migrants without hearing their asylum claims, is coming to an end on May 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced.
Republicans have been sounding the alarm, warning that this could lead to a tripling of the already record-breaking migrant apprehensions by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
In a Wednesday letter sent to Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri wrote that CBP "reported over two million encounters with aliens illegally crossing the southern border" in 2021. According to Hawley, this is "the highest number ever recorded," as he added that some of the illegal migrants "have been identified as previously deported MS-13 gang members."
Former Donald Trump administration officials, including Ken Cuccinelli, ex-Homeland Security official under the 45th POTUS, and other Republicans, have been urging GOP Texas Governor Greg Abbott to declare an “invasion” along the US-Mexico border so that troops could resort to war time powers to expel migrants.
Cuccinelli insisted that states are entitled to defend themselves from “immediate danger or invasion” under the “self-defence clause.”
6 April 2022, 21:24 GMT
Meanwhile, Greg Abbott vowed "unprecedented" action to curb the anticipated huge influx of migrants coming to Texas.
At a press conference on Wednesday he said that Texas would place state troopers in riot gear to meet migrants at the border and bus them straight to the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., where he said the Biden administration "will be able to more immediately address the needs of the people that they are allowing to come across our border."
Later, the governor's office clarified that the program would be voluntary for migrants already processed and released by the Department of Homeland Security.
As Abbott announced impending enhanced safety inspections of commercial vehicles coming through the border into Texas and boat blockades on the Rio Grande to deter migrants, the Republican governor blamed the Biden administration's immigration policies for soaring migrant numbers.