Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s catch-and-release program is not working very well, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. The report, released Wednesday, showed ICE lost track of a third of all catch-and-release migrants in 2020.
ICE has about three million migrants on its docket, and the federal agency does not have the facilities to detain them all. As a result, ICE releases the vast majority of the migrants it detains into communities around the country to wait for their court hearings.
The official name for this catch-and-release policy is the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Program. ICE pays a third-party contractor $2.2 billion to monitor people enrolled in the program either through GPS tracking, cell phone apps, or by telephonic reporting (TR). GPS is considered the highest level of tracking, and it’s also the most costly. TR is considered the least invasive form of monitoring, and uses voice-recognition technology when enrollees call into the system.
The GAO report shows 33% of ATD enrollees absconded in 2020, meaning neither ICE nor the Federal government know where those people are.
In addition, the GAO also found ICE did not “completely or consistently” present this information in external reporting, like in public reports. The federal agency also isn’t fully assessing the performance of the ATD program or ensuring the third-party contractor is meeting performance standards.
The GAO made 10 recommendations to ICE to address the findings.