[Pnews] GPS monitors shackle more than 40, 000 individuals under the supervision of ICE

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 30 10:55:23 EDT 2019


  How GPS is Playing a Critical Role for ICE

August 30, 2019

    James Kilgore interviews Daniel Gonzalez on the ever-expanding
    electronic infrastructure used to monitor migrants (Part One)

/In recent months ICE has been conducting a huge number of raids, 
dragging people from their families, often away from communities where 
they have lived for many years. Part of the technology involved in 
executing these raids has been the GPS monitors that shackle more than 
40,000 individuals under the supervision of ICE. Our project, 
//Challenging E-Carceration/ 
<https://www.challengingecarceration.org/>/(part of the 
#NoDigitalPrisons campaign) has sought to better understand how ICE is 
using these GPS devices in their attacks on and management of migrant 
bodies. Fortunately, we caught up with scholar Daniel Gonzalez, who has 
been researching all this for several years. Our project director, James 
Kilgore, had a conversation with Daniel, which we will be sharing in two 
parts. Here’s Part One:/

*James Kilgore: In your writing you talk a lot about borders. You seem 
to be saying that we often have a simplistic understanding of what a 
border is in the 21st century. Can you explain your understanding of 

*Daniel Gonzalez*: For a long time we have equated borders with walls 
and fences. I think this is a mistake because it leads us to talk about 
who belongs in the US in a very limited way. Moreover, it distracts us 
from other border sites and practices. For me, the border is the 
physical structures that geographically demarcate a nation-state /and/ 
the personnel, technologies, practices, and knowledge that enforce 
immigration and trade policy. More specifically, I focus on a database 
infrastructure called Investigative Case Management (ICM) that connects 
all these aspects. ICM — not a wall — is the current border’s backbone.

Looking at this larger border infrastructure reveals the border’s 
investment in managing people inside the US. Reframing border practices 
in terms of interior AND exterior management highlights the historic 
relationship between border politics, racism, and the US’ need for 
devalued labor. Borders aren’t always about keeping certain people out; 
rather they can also act as supply chains that funnel in and then 
monitor a certain kind of (racialized and right-less) labor. While ICM 
is new, the kind of work the border does now isn’t. For example, photos 
from the 20th century Bracero <http://braceroarchive.org/about> program 
show the US-Mexico border operating like a waiting line: laborers were 
allowed in at certain times and under specific, terminable conditions.

Even back then migrant laborers were monitored and managed — from the 
documentation they needed in order to work, the border checkpoints they 
went through, and the transportation to and from the worksite. At times, 
they were even forced to live in labor camps. However many migrants 
fought to improve their conditions and found ways to integrate into US 
society. The inability to permanently track and manage these workers is 
one of the reasons why the US government (despite resistance from the 
agriculture industry) ended the program in the mid-1960s. Now, however, 
the border can constantly track migrants’ entire lives at home and work. 
This ensures a precarious migrant labor force and guarantees that 
migrants will be constantly monitored and managed, limiting resistance 
and migrants’ ability to improve their conditions. So, if a migrant 
becomes disruptive or if their labor is no longer needed, then they are 
easily deportable. Historically, US borders have always been better at 
monitoring migrants than they have been at denying entry, and focusing 
on ICM allows us to see how US border policy is currently creating and 
securing a precarious labor force.

*James: I am especially interested in electronic monitoring (EM). From 
my research, it seems that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 
uses EM differently than law enforcement and the overall criminal legal 
system. Most people under ICE’s monitoring are not under house arrest, 
don’t pay user fees and don’t report to a personal supervisor like a 
probation officer. Even though they are on GPS-enabled monitors that 
track their location, they don’t seem to be punished for traveling away 
from home. I am not implying that the use of EM on migrants is not 
oppressive, but I want to understand why it is different. Do you have 
some ideas on this? I am especially interested in the ways in which 
immigrants are criminalized as a result of this practice.*

*Daniel:* This is a question of “target population” and how state 
institutions understand certain groups of people. Departments of 
Corrections and pretrial authorities employ EM to geographically contain 
criminalized people: EM ties people to their houses, severely and 
constantly limiting mobility. ICE, on the other hand, has a different 
(but not unrelated) goal — monitoring people’s mobility. DOC uses EM as 
an extension of mass incarceration. But ICE doesn’t want to completely 
incarcerate a cheap labor force — it merely wants to keep labor cheap 
and precarious.

ICE also uses EM to monitor the area that a person is or is not allowed 
to enter, but this monitoring usually allows for greater mobility than 
monitoring under DOC. The recent raids suggest that ICE also uses EM to 
help track a person or group after it is determined that they are 
disruptive, break the law, use public institutions or services, or when 
their labor is simply no longer needed. Then, ICE intervenes, detains, 
and deports. Migrants already enter the US labor force criminalized and 
with limited rights, and ICE waits to capitalize on that precarity.

    Migrants already enter the US labor force criminalized and with
    limited rights, and ICE waits to capitalize on that precarity.

*James: Earlier this month ICE raided seven workplaces in Mississippi 
and took nearly 700 workers into custody. A number of reports indicated 
that ICE made use of GPS tracking of location to target workers in the 
plant. Can you explain how that might have worked and tell us whether 
this is common practice?*

*Daniel:* Electronic monitoring is a GPS and data-collection technology 
(often wearable) that records and sends a person’s life-activity 
patterns — including location-based data — to central 
information-processing centers, likeDHS Fusion Centers 
In these centers local, state, and federal agencies ensure the 
coordination of information and plan action across government 
institutions. ICE uses this information to make operative decisions, 
such as locating people who miss a routine check-in. In large-scale 
raids, however, ICE already has a goal: it is not just responding to a 
specific infraction; ICE also uses EM data to plan the logistics of the 

Considering the frequency of these large-scale workplace raids and the 
increase in funding DHS spends on these surveillance and information 
technologies, I think that GPS is playing a critical role for ICE and 
may play an even larger role in the future. The SmartLINK smartphone app 
that ICE in Miami is currently using, for example, has taken EM to 
another level by combining GPS and facial recognition.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the use of GPS to monitor 
migrants in the workplace is not new. DHS funding documents on 
prototypes from the early 2000s indicate that employer information was 
also networked into this migrant management system. These prototypes 
integrated community-based support programs 
<https://www.ice.gov/video/championing-ice-community> (noncitizen 
sponsorship) with EM and provided ICE-contracted caseworkers with access 
to workplaces, encouraging a conflation of interest between ICE and 


/James Kilgore is a Media Fellow at Media Justice. He directs the 
Challenging E-Carceration project as part of the #NoDigitalPrisons 
campaign and was a 2017 Soros Justice Fellow. He is the author of five 
books, including the award-winning //Understanding Mass Incarceration:A 
People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time./ 
<https://thenewpress.com/books/understanding-mass-incarceration>/In his 
community of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois he is Co-Director of 
FirstFollowers Reentry Program./

/Daniel Gonzalez is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography and 
Geographic Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 
His research focuses on the science and technologies of racial 
capitalism, particularly as they pertain to regimes of US border 
enforcement and immigration management./

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