Georgia murder case highlights problems with 'alternatives to incarceration'

The latest information about the recent murder of Laken Riley at the University of Georgia raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the expensive and controversial Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program.

As described on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website, ATD exists to “ensure compliance with release conditions and provide essential case management services for non-detained noncitizens.” In other words, ATD allows ICE to track the whereabouts of illegal immigrants released into the interior of the United States until the alien flees the program or ICE determines that monitoring is no longer necessary. Since 2004, taxpayers have spent about $1.5 billion on the program, and the recent failed immigration bill would have given the program an additional $1.29 billion.

As explained in a draft ICE report published by Fox News, thousands of aliens enrolled in ATD flee the program every month, and the average escape rate is 84 percent (the report examined 47,905 aliens enrolled throughout their immigration lifecycle ATD were enrolled and found that). 40,300 fled). Those who claim that ATD is 90 percent effective are only referring to aliens who have only recently joined the program; ICE typically removes aliens from the program after about 12 months, although immigration cases may take years to complete.

Now, a new ICE statement on the Georgia murder case underscores how ineffective the ATD program can be and raises many questions for Congress to consider.

ICE Statement Notes: ATD error. In the latest ICE statement, illegal alien Diego Ibarra – the brother of murder suspect Jose Ibarra – was allowed into the United States, placed on ATD, and escaped the program 13 days after his release:

[Diego Ibarra] unlawfully re-entered the United States on April 30, 2023 near El Paso, Texas and was arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol on May 11, 2023 and placed in Alternatives to Detention (ATD) by ERO. On May 25, 2023, he was deported from ATD and listed as a fugitive from the program after GPS anomalies. In 2023, there were several arrests by Athens-Clarke County police that failed to honor ICE detainees.

I am increasingly convinced that ATD's primary purpose is to appease members of Congress who are raising concerns about the mass release of illegal immigrants into the country. The message is: “Don't worry, they are being monitored electronically so we know where they are and where they are going.” But the truth is that the vast majority of illegal aliens housed on ATD will escape and disappear – it just depends on how quickly it happens after release.

The Georgia murder suspect's brother escaped to the United States 13 days after his release. And in all likelihood, the “GPS anomalies” began before May 25, 2023 (the day he was officially delisted), so it's probably safe to say he went into hiding within a few days of entry .

ATD is an extremely expensive program that illegal aliens routinely violate without consequence.

But what happened after Diego Ibarra fled ATD? Diego has been at large for nine months and was arrested just last week for possessing a fake green card. The moment Diego escaped from the ATD program, those monitoring his GPS had a general idea of ​​his last known whereabouts and could have immediately dispatched a team of officers to locate him. That would undoubtedly be a challenge. And it's a questionable use of ICE resources for an alien. All we know from ICE's statement is that he ultimately only appeared on ICE's radar after he was arrested “multiple times” by Athens-Clarke County police in 2023. It appears that it was this police fingerprinting that alerted ICE to his location (the prints go into a national database that pings ICE's enforcement systems) – not the ATD program.

If ICE is unable or unwilling to deploy a refugee response team at the exact moment an ATD violation occurs, then the unspoken policy is to simply wait until the fleeing alien commits a crime and be subject to a local investigation law enforcement agency is arrested. This is not good for public safety. It's also not very good policy if the local law enforcement agency located in a protected area doesn't cooperate with ICE. But it's the way the system works, because ICE doesn't have the resources to send out a team after every ATD violation – of which there are thousands every month. The question remains: What is the value of the billion-dollar ATD program?

Topics for the Congress. Congress should ask ICE for a full, up-to-date evaluation of every moment Diego Ibarra was placed in the ATD program. Where did he go during ATD? Did DHS know he was on his way to a sanctuary when it registered him with ATD? What exactly does ICE mean by “GPS anomalies”? Where was he when the abnormalities occurred? Has anyone at ICE tried to reach him? Was there any operation aimed at locating and arresting him after his escape? What type of ATD was he enrolled in (e.g. cell phone app, ankle bracelet, etc.)?

Congress should also ask whether murder suspect Jose Ibarra was registered with the ATD and if not, why not? If so, did he also escape the program? Was someone seriously monitoring him? When was the last time he checked in with ICE? Was there a check-in scheduled for him? Did ICE ever reach out to him after learning his brother had escaped the ATD program?

If Congress wants to continue funding ATD, it should add some parameters to the program and also include severe penalties for ATD violations in federal law. Currently, ATD is an extremely expensive program that illegal aliens routinely violate without consequence. The program imposes enormous costs on taxpayers but provides no serious enforcement benefits to ICE officers. However, if Congress were to make a violation of ATD a felony and require DHS to immediately cancel any pending immigration case or benefit for a fugitive alien and to immediately deport that alien without additional proceedings, it would likely go a long way toward achieving the goal program effective. Congress should also require ICE to keep aliens registered with ATD throughout the duration of immigration cases.

Congress could also require that ICE issue a public notice each time an alien flees the ATD program alerting the public to the violation and requesting that ICE be notified if the public knows the whereabouts of the foreigner. Congress could require that these notices be sent to any law enforcement agency where the alien is believed to currently reside or be traveling to.

Congress should also prevent DHS from subjecting aliens to ATD when they travel to a noncooperative sanctuary area. Or better yet, Congress should prohibit DHS from releasing illegal immigrants if they plan to move to a sanctuary. Congress could require ICE to immediately locate and arrest any alien on ATD who enters a protected area. Under the ATD program, aliens are permitted to move and change their place of residence, but they must first notify the ICE field office, which will forward their case. Congress could prohibit ICE from approving an alien's request to be relocated to a sanctuary city.

Frankly, if a foreigner arriving at the border tells the border police that he plans to move to a protected area, he should not be allowed to continue on his way. Allowing a foreigner to enter an uncooperative jurisdiction is effectively a decision to make him disappear. It is the case that most illegal aliens allowed entry will disappear, but it is particularly problematic when they disappear into a city that actively protects them from federal immigration enforcement. Many ICE officials are genuinely and deeply frustrated that the Border Patrol is releasing so many illegal immigrants into the country because it is essentially one agency leaving a problem to another agency; ICE officers are expected to clean up the mess at some point.

ICE officers, ICE attorneys, the immigration courts, and every part of this enforcement system cannot cope with the millions of illegal immigrants that CBP is allowing into the country, and yet these decisions to admit people are made every day without regard to the capacity of those individuals hit the country's internal immigration system to deal with it.

Congress could transform ATD into a useful program, but that would require strict controls on its administration and the establishment of severe penalties for aliens who violate the program's terms.