ICE Spends Nearly $90 Million a Year on ‘Free’ Smartphones for Migrants

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spends nearly $90 million a year on taxpayer-funded “free” smartphones for illegal migrants.

Illegal border crossers receive the device as part of a program that allows migrants to check in via a smartphone rather than be placed in detention.

More than 255,000 migrants are enrolled in the SmartLink smartphone program, according to ICE data.

SmartLink is part of the “Alternatives to Detention” program that allows participants to be monitored via smartphone or tablet through facial-matching technology.

The Biden administration was grilled by Fox News’s Peter Doocy about the program when Jen Psaki was the White House’s chief spokesperson.

There are other programs to monitor the migrants, many of who admitted they came here to work, which is not a valid asylum claim, the cheapest being VoiceID.

This program uses a biometric voice print and involves check-in calls.

Psaki tried to pitch the program as a great alternative to detention:

DOOCY: Thank you, Jen.  First, on immigration: Our team in Texas is that saying that you guys are starting to give smartphones to border crossers, hoping that they’ll use the phones to check in or to be tracked.  I — which part of that is supposed to deter people from crossing illegally into the states?

PSAKI: Well, I think you of all people — since you’ve asked me a range of questions on this topic over time — would recognize that we need to take steps to ensure that we know where individuals are and we can track — and we can check in with them.

The alternatives to detention programs — is what we utilize — has three unique forms of technology to monitor participants enrolled in the program:

Telephonic, which is one of them, which is uses a participant’s voice to create a biometric voice print during the enrollment process.  And when the participant has a check-in call, their voice is compared to the voice print.

SmartLink, which is another option, enables participant monitoring via smartphone or tablet using facial-matching technology to establish identity.

And Global Positioning System monitoring is of a participant’s location and movement history, using satellite technology through an ankle bracelet.  This is all part of our effort, as individuals come into the United States and individuals who are entering who will proceed to immigration proceedings, to monitor and track where they are.

DOOCY: With the Telephonic, though, any concern by folks around here that these migrants will take the phones and just toss them?  And then —

PSAKI:  Do you have a record of people throwing phones away?

DOOCY: I’m just asking if that’s a concern.

PSAKI:  Our concern is ensuring that individuals who irregularly migrate to the United States proceed through our process of, you know, of course, being monitored, but also participating in — in hearings to determine whether or not they will be able to stay.

I would note that nearly 80 percent of non-citizens released at the border from DHS custody under prosecut- — prosecutorial discretion have either received a notice to appear or are still within their window to report.

So, actually, the vast, vast majority of people are appearing.  In part, we have these monitors and monitoring systems in order to do that effectively.

DOOCY: Okay.  On another topic, was it common for President Biden to do favors for Hunter Biden’s international business partners like writing college recommendations for their kids?

PSAKI:  I have — I’ve seen the report.  I have no confirmation or comments on a report about whether or not the President, when he was a private citizen, wrote a college recommendation letter for an individual.

DOOCY: A college recommendation letter, though, from, at the time, a former Vice President would be a big deal.  So, do we know what the President might have gotten in return for doing a favor like that?

PSAKI:  Again, I have no confirmation of any recommendation letter the President wrote when he was a private citizen — by the way, not serving in public office.  That’s even in the report.

DOOCY: But he’s the President now, and you’re his spokesperson.

PSAKI:  Correct.  And he was not the President at the time of this report.

See full transcript.

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By David Hawkins

David Hawkins is a writer who specializes in political commentary and world affairs. He's been writing professionally since 2014.

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