Inside Biden’s New Tracking System for Migrant Families

Biden Administration Launches Enhanced Tracking System for Migrant Families

In California one evening, Sandra found herself at a birthday celebration with her 15-year-old son. A quick look at the clock sent her into a state of worry. It was past 10 p.m. She realized she had less than an hour to make it home before the 11 p.m. curfew imposed by U.S. immigration authorities. This curfew is a part of a tracking system for migrant families seeking asylum in the U.S. that has been in place for nearly a year. She signaled to her son that it was time to leave, quickly moving him out the door and into their car. They arrived home at 10:58 p.m., narrowly avoiding a breach of curfew, with the GPS monitor on her ankle marking their location for the authorities. Sandra’s heart, which had been racing throughout their hurried drive, finally began to calm down.

Sandra, 45, and her son Justin came to the U.S. from Colombia in December, fleeing danger and seeking safety. They are now part of the Biden administration’s program aimed at processing migrant families more swiftly, a program that could lead to their deportation if their asylum claims are not accepted. This initiative is designed to prevent families from disappearing into the U.S. without attending their asylum hearings. If families do not pass their initial screenings, they face deportation within weeks, a stark contrast to the usual years-long asylum process.

Since its inception in May, the Family Expedited Removal Management program has monitored over 19,000 individuals. Data shows that more than 1,500 have been deported, while around 1,000 have removed their ankle monitors and vanished. The rest are either awaiting the outcome of their initial screenings or have already passed them. The program represents a new approach to managing the influx of families seeking refuge in the U.S., offering an alternative to detention or release without effective tracking.

Thomas Giles, an ICE official overseeing the program, acknowledges its potential but also its demands on resources. It represents a significant shift in handling asylum claims, aiming to expedite the process while ensuring that those who do not qualify for asylum are quickly identified and processed for return.

The U.S. faces challenges in managing the number of asylum seekers, with President Biden considering measures to streamline the process. The surge in migrant encounters has placed a strain on resources, raising questions about the best methods for detaining or processing migrant families. The practice of detaining families has been controversial, with concerns about the impact on children’s development.

The Biden administration has shifted away from detention, opting instead for electronic monitoring and expedited screenings. This approach aims to make the asylum process more efficient, reducing the backlog of cases and providing a clearer path for those who qualify for asylum.

Sandra’s journey to the U.S. was driven by necessity, not desire. Threatened by gang violence in Colombia, she sought safety for herself and her son. Despite the challenges and the indignity of electronic monitoring, she remains hopeful for a positive outcome. The expedited removal program, while faster, has faced criticism for potentially rushing the asylum process and making it difficult for migrants to access legal representation.

As Sandra awaits the next steps in her asylum case, she reflects on the unfamiliarity of her new surroundings and the uncertainty of the future. Yet, she remains hopeful, trusting that everything will work out in the end.