Immigration officials using more ankle monitors, even on non-criminals

Print
Email
|

by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on May 10, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 10:24 PM

DALLAS - There are things Alex Rodriguez is proud of, like his young family.

There are other things he's ashamed of, like the ankle monitor he wears 24 hours a day, put on by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"People think, you know, I am a bad person,” he said.

Six years ago, Rodriguez, from Honduras, entered the U.S. illegally.

Two years ago, he was arrested in Farmers Branch for shoplifting a pair of $20 sunglasses. It is a misdemeanor crime. He said he forgot they were still on his forehead.

“I forget my glasses because I did wrong," Rodriguez said, pointing to his forehead. "Put my glasses on here.”

Since then, he married Maira, a U.S. citizen. Last month, the government issued him an immigrant Visa, creating a pathway to permanent residency in this country.

"Why would he escape?" Maira Rodriguez asked. "It doesn't make any sense."

Still, Rodriguez wears an ankle monitor that virtually controls his life.

“Too much, I think it's too much,” Rodriguez said. “It's a lot. Don't you think it's crazy?”

Ankle monitors were designed to shift criminals out of over-crowded jails.

Immigration lawyers told News 8 in the last eight months, ICE has been installing ankle monitors on people who are not criminals, have little incentive to run away and have a clear path to citizenship in the U.S.

Immigration reform advocate Ralph Isenberg is suing ICE, demanding reasonable standards for those who get an ankle monitor.

"The money that we are spending on wasted ankle monitors on non-criminals, we could be hiring hundreds of how many new ICE agents to go after these criminals that we really need to get,” Isenberg said.

The program is run by a private contractor, called BI Incorporated. Over five years, the U.S. government will pay BI $372 million to operate ICE's ankle monitor program. The company declined to comment for this story.
        
But ICE records, requested by News 8, confirmed an increase in the use of monitors.

In the 2011 fiscal year, BI installed 462 ankle monitors. In the first seven months of fiscal 2012, they've already installed 418.

"These monitors are beginning to smell awful fishy, as if there's too much profit involved for one company,” Isenberg said.
 
On more than a dozen occasions this year, Isenberg says his legal center succeeded in getting an ankle monitors off a client.

"I felt violated,” Alex Lieber said.

He grew up in Plano and discovered, after he was grown, his adoption from the Philippines was never properly completed. Therefore, he was not a U.S. citizen.

How did Isenberg convince ICE to remove Lieber’s ankle monitor?

"We demand that the monitor be taken off, or there will be consequences,” Isenberg said.

Why does it have to come to that? ICE declined to be interviewed on camera.

However, in a statement, a spokesperson wrote ankle monitors are assigned on "a case-by-case review that includes, but is not limited to: compliance history, immigration legal stage, criminal history, community ties, humanitarian factors."
     
In two weeks, Alex is headed back to Honduras. He has surrendered his passport to ICE and agreeded to leave voluntarily, so he can re-enter the country legally. It’s a process that could take a year.

"That's really hard for me, because I have a baby and he's going to miss everything,” Maira Rodriguez said.

Alex said his American family and the possibility of legal residency in the U.S. are reason enough to follow the rules.
 
Still, he will wear his ankle monitor until a BI employee meets him at the airport to remove it.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|