Shackled: Refugees are Being Jailed at the Ankle
America - the land of opportunity. America - the land of hope. America - the land of the…free?
Often when a person thinks about GPS ankle shackles, that person thinks about people who’ve committed deadly crime. What many people don’t know is that over 30,000 people wearing GPS ankle shackles are undocumented people. Many of those thousands are asylum seekers. That’s right, people who are fleeing persecution and who come to America as refugees now must walk around with this stigmatizing device on their ankle.
For some, GPS ankle shackles have the same negative cultural impact as they do for those released from prison. One mother said, “My son asked me why they put this on me, he said that they only do this to thieves. I explained to him that I am not a thief.”
For others, the experience is worse. GPS tracking devices, often called “grilletes,” Spanish for “shackles,” remind hundreds of Garifuna asylum-seekers of their history as slaves. Obviously, this is not what they expected when they emigrated to America to flee persecution in Honduras. One Garifuna who was forced to wear an ankle monitor said, “I left my community because of the violence,” but, ironically, after walking around with a GPS shackle, people looked at her as if she was a violent offender.
Even worse, GPS shackles criminalize people fleeing from persecution.
Because probationers and parolees traditionally wear GPS shackles, police often harass undocumented people, who are forced to GPS shackles, thinking that the asylum-seekers carry some kind of felony conviction (which they do not). These interactions with police can put the asylum-seeker at greater risk of not being granted refugee status and citizenship.
Due to interactions with police increase the likelihood of a person getting charged with a crime and certain crimes are complete bars to refugee relief, the stigmas attached to GPS shackles might cause irreparable harm to asylum-seekers. Also troubling is that some relatives of undocumented people are hesitant to host them, because of the undocumented person’s GPS tracking device.
No one wants to be viewed as having done something illegal, especially if all that person has done was come to America in hopes of having a better life.
Two serious problems, then, of using GPS shackles on undocumented people
awaiting deportation hearings are the psychological harm of the cultural stigmas from the GPS shackle and its potentially negative impacts on refugee relief.
Two serious problems, then, of using GPS shackles on undocumented people awaiting deportation hearings are the psychological harm of the cultural stigmas from the GPS shackle and its potentially negative impacts on refugee relief.
Also noteworthy is that, unlike those who request GPS tracking devices as an alternative to incarceration, undocumented people (sometimes) are forcibly put on GPS shackles. The CARA Pro Bono Legal Project in Dilley, Texas alleged that ICE forced 100 women in a detention center to sign paperwork agreeing to be put on GPS tracking devices instead of bonding out. Although there is more research to be done regarding undocumented people willingly or unwillingly agreeing to wear GPS tracking devices, with DHS expanding its use of electronic monitoring on undocumented people GPS shackles are becoming a living nightmare.
1. Wallace, Lewis. The U.S. is tracking a record number of immigrants with ankle monitors. 08/17/2017
2. Barron, Kyle and Santos Briones, Cinthya. No Alternatives: Ankle Monitors Expand the Reach of Immigration Detention. 01/06/2015.
6. Hennessey-Fiske, Molly. Immigrants object to growing use of ankle monitors after detention. 08/02/2015. See also Barron, Kyle and Santos Briones, Cinthya. No Alternatives: Ankle Monitors Expand the Reach of Immigration Detention (Undocumented people signed paperwork without having it explained to them or knowing what they were signing). 01/06/2015.