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As ICE Data Errors Persist, GEO Group Cashes In

by Chuck Sharman

Data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University reveal that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to struggle with accurate reporting of the number of migrants it tracks through its Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program. In just one week in late May 2023, TRAC found, the agency reported the number tracked with ankle monitors exploded by 3,760%.

It’s nearly impossible to believe that ICE somehow managed to get monitors on the ankles of 183,000 migrants in just one week – especially when the same week saw a nearly 85% decline in the number of migrants monitored with phone app. Together, the two technologies were used to track 228,876 migrants on May 18, 2023, versus 223,510 on May 26, 2023 – a miniscule variation of less than 2.5%.

What’s less hard to believe is that ICE simply regurgitated data fed to it by its private contractor for the program, GEO Group subsidiary BI, Inc. Least hard of all to believe is that BI and GEO Group have a big interest in the apparent obfuscation: Ankle monitors generate $2.74 in income per migrant per day, while the firm’s SMARTlink phone app generates just 96 cents.

Given the enormous number of migrants involved, that means ICE may have been overcharged by $328,157.24 per day. Over a week, that amounts to almost $2.3 million. Over a month, it grows to almost $10 million – and over half a billion in a year.

“ICE appears to be conducting not so much as a cursory validation check before posting these data online,” TRAC noted, “which raises concerns about what other kinds of data the agency is posting with errors.”

This is not the first time that TRAC has documented this same error in ICE reporting. In December 2022, ICE admitted that it had misreported ankle monitor usage, falsely showing a massive increase when in fact the numbers had been declining. “Adding to the confusion,” TRAC noted at the time, “ICE frequently posts data, replaces it, and replaces it again without any indication that changes have taken place, or which set are the ‘correct’ numbers.”

As TRAC reminded readers of its most recent report, “ICE’s frequent and ongoing data errors further undermine public trust in the agency.”

The vast majority of migrants in the ICE system are part of its ATD program, a total of 242,418 on ankle monitors, phone apps or calling to check in with ICE on May 26, 2023 – five days after the agency reported it held another 27,330 people in detention centers.


Source: TRAC