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Ankle bracelets used to monitor some migrant families

  • The FERM program uses GPS monitoring to track families with asylum claims
  • Not all countries of origin can participate in the program
  • Source: Most family units are released with a notice to appear in court

(NewsNation) — The Biden administration is monitoring migrant families as part of a process to eventually deport them, but only those from certain countries.

More than 93,000 people entered the U.S. as part of a family unit through the southern border last month. That’s up from 52,000 in July, and the Biden administration is trying to further reduce those numbers by using ankle monitors and quick deportation. A source familiar with the program, however, said most families don’t qualify and when they do, they typically receive a notice to appear in court when all is said and done.

There are more than 600 family units in the Family Expedited Removal Management (FERM) program, Families from certain countries including the Northern Triangle — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — as well as Peru, Ecuador and Colombia are eligible for FERM, since they can be removed quickly.

Those coming from countries with strained relationships, however, don’t qualify. That includes families traveling from Venezuela and Cuba. Others from Senegal, India and Nepal also aren’t part of the program since deportations to those countries tend to be more complicated and require additional resources.

For families that qualify, the head of the household receives a tracking device, such as an ankle monitor, and a phone that allows them to be tracked and connect with immigration officers.

Some regions are transitioning to smartwatches that will eventually replace the phone and ankle bracelets.

About a year ago, single adults with ankle monitors were part of an alternative-to-detention program, but that practice quietly ended when agents said they ran out of devices to distribute. 

The current program takes about a month for one family to navigate. It starts when a family claims fear and is released with a tracking device into one of 33 cities where they have a sponsor. By September 15, 42 cities will be on the list, including New York, where many migrants say they’re headed.

A family will then have an immigration interview with an asylum officer. If they fail, they can apply for a review with an immigration court judge. They will then wait for a final determination from a judge.

If the judge determines their fear claim isn’t valid, they can be removed or will be issued a court date and enter into full immigration removal proceedings, which can take years. 

A person familiar with the program said about 60% of the people who go through the program are being given a court date.

FERM program participants do have a curfew. They must be home between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. They’re also required to regularly check in with an immigration office or case manager and generally won’t be in contact with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless they need to serve a document or for removal. 

Border Report

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