The newly released report, “Immigration Cyber Prisons: Ending the Use of Electronic Ankle Shackles,” leverages surveys of approximately 150 immigrants subject to shackling, data from immigration legal service providers related to nearly 1,000 cases, and qualitative interviews with immigrants subject to shackling. The result is the first empirical study to document the nature and scale of the harms, racial disparities and lack of efficacy of ICE’s massive electronic shackling program.
The report finds that immigrants subject to shackling by ICE endure many of the same devastating impacts on their physical and mental health that are experienced in physical prisons. Shackling also leads to other degrading harms associated with the invisible cell walls of shackles, including social isolation and employer discrimination, and these effects ripple through families and entire communities. Moreover, just as Black immigrants are subject to higher rates of abuse throughout the rest of the immigration detention system, Black immigrants are disproportionately subject to shackling by ICE.
The report is based on the lived experiences of hundreds of immigrants burdened by shackling and features the voices of people impacted by ICE surveillance. “Even though I was released, I still feel caged in a cyber prison,” reported one immigrant who was subject to months of shackling. “Shackles are completely inhumane and both physically and emotionally degrading,” recalled another individual in the report’s survey.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently subjecting more than 31,000 people to ankle shackling through its Intensive Supervision Assistance Program, or ISAP, which was originally sold by ICE as a humane alternative to physical prisons. However, in addition to revealing the severe consequences of shackling, data from the report suggests that individuals with legal counsel and community support services appeared in court at similar and sometimes higher rates than individuals subject to shackling.
“Shackling is an abusive and pervasive extension of the immigration detention system––a system that’s rooted in racism and xenophobia,” said Layla Razavi, deputy executive director of Freedom for Immigrants. “Whether immigrants are confined inside a jail cell in an immigration detention center or placed on electronic surveillance using an ankle shackle, detention deprives immigrants of their rights and human dignity. Our report makes clear the urgent need to end the detention of immigrants in all forms and underscores why viable solutions to ending this cruel system will not be made by ICE.”
“ICE’s reliance on electronic shackles, in addition to other troubling technologies that use facial recognition, enables ICE to track immigrants in real time—expanding ICE’s reach and power within communities and over the individuals it puts under constant surveillance,” said Mizue Aizeki, interim executive director of the Immigrant Defense Project. “ICE’s practices cause deep harm. The responsible path forward is ending the detention and deportation system.”
“There are profound harms associated with shackling and instead of reducing detention, ICE’s shackling program has been used to confine people who would previously have been at liberty,” said Alisa Whitfield, clinical teaching fellow at the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “The data show that people offered legal counsel and supportive services—like medical and mental health care, housing and employment assistance, and language access support—appear in immigration courts at equivalent, if not higher, rates than those who are shackled by ICE.”
Key findings of the report’s research include:
9 in 10 surveyed individuals experienced harm to their physical health––ranging from discomfort to aggravating life-threatening symptoms of conditions like diabetes
1 in 5 experienced electric shocks
88% of survey participants reported the shackles harmed their mental health, including an alarming 12% who reported suicidal thoughts
Virtually everyone (97%) reported experiencing social isolation
78% of respondents reported financial hardship as a result of ankle shackling, including over two-thirds of respondents who reported that they lost or had difficulty obtaining work as a result of their electronic ankle shackle
74% of respondents reported that the shackle hindered their ability to care for their family and community
Black immigrants were represented in the shackled cohort at more than twice the rate of their representation in the non-shackled cohort
Shackling is no more effective at ensuring court appearance than holistic approaches, such as access to legal representation and non-coercive community support services, rendering it unnecessary for its stated purpose
The report concludes that the Biden-Harris administration should begin to wind down shackling, and the immigration detention system as a whole, in favor of community support programming. Congress is currently in the process of markups on the fiscal year 2022 budget appropriations bills, the drafts of which include renewed funding for ICE detention beds and shackles at roughly equal rates to the 2021 budget.
Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law is a law school clinic that works to improve access to justice for immigrants through individual representation and transformative law reform initiatives, while simultaneously training the next generation of exceptional immigrant advocates. https://cardozo.yu.edu/clinics-professionalskills/clinics/kathryn-o-greenberg-immigration-justice-clinic
Freedom for Immigrants is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit devoted to abolishing immigration detention, while ending the isolation of people currently suffering in this profit-driven system. We monitor the human rights abuses faced by immigrants detained by ICE through a national hotline and network of volunteer detention visitors, while also modeling a community-based alternative to detention that welcomes immigrants into the social fabric of the United States. Through these windows into the system, we gather data and stories to combat injustice at the individual level and push systemic change. https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org
The Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) was founded over 20 years ago to combat an emerging human rights crisis: the targeting of immigrants for mass imprisonment and deportation. As this crisis has continued to escalate, IDP has remained steadfast in fighting for fairness and justice for all immigrants caught at the intersection of the racially biased U.S. criminal and immigration systems. IDP fights to end the current era of unprecedented mass criminalization, detention and deportation through a multipronged strategy including advocacy, litigation, legal advice and training, community defense, grassroots alliances, and strategic communications.
Contact: Jeff Migliozzi, email@example.com, (323) 579-1506