ICE is moving forward with a pilot program that would see ID cards given out to illegal immigrants, as part of broader efforts to keep track on the tens of thousands being released into the country each month due to the historic crisis at the southern border.
The ICE Secure Docket Card program is part of a pilot program the agency says will “modernize various forms of documentation provided to provisionally released noncitizens through a consistent, verifiable, secure card.”
Migrants who are apprehended at the southern border and are not removed are instead released into the U.S. as their asylum cases are heard by the U.S. immigration system — a process which can take years. They are released with a range of different paperwork depending on the migrant’s situation.
The new ID card will contain a photograph, biographic identifiers and what ICE calls “cutting-edge security features to the mutual benefit of the government and noncitizens.”
“Specifics of the program are still under development, but a primary goal of the SDC is to improve current, inconsistent paper forms that often degrade rapidly in real world use,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Pending the outcome of the pilot, ICE will consider further expansion.”
ICE believes that the card will allow for officers in the field to easily verify an illegal immigrant’s identity and whether or not they are deportable. The card could in turn be used by the migrant to check in and schedule reporting dates with ICE offices, as well as hearing dates for immigration court.
It comes as part of efforts by ICE to keep tabs on the tens of thousands being released into the U.S. each month. ICE is currently monitoring hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants via its Alternatives to Detention program — which primarily sees them check in via a smartphone app, but can also include ankle bracelets and in-person check-ins. The number of enrollees in that program has spiked from approximately 86,000 at the end of 2020 to nearly 300,000 in recent months, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.
CNN, which first reported on the program, reported that the ID could eventually be accepted by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials. TSA has caused significant controversy by allowing migrants to board planes using civil immigration arrest warrants and other immigration documents.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske said last week at a Senate hearing that “under 1,000” illegal immigrants had been allowed to board planes with arrest warrants and deportation orders this calendar year.
While he stressed that that process included additional vetting, he was grilled on the security implications by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who asked why illegal immigrants should be allowed to board flights at all.
“I think you’re going to have a hard time explaining to folks who wait for all of this time in these lines, who subject themselves voluntarily to the restrictions you impose…that you’re allowing illegal aliens with warrants for arrest to get on airplanes.”
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently announced last that there were 207,000 migrant encounters at the border in June, compared to just over 189,000 in June last year. The June report shows there were 105,161 migrants removed from the U.S. last month, including 92,273 expelled under CDC’s Title 42 order – 79,652 migrants were released into the US.
With June’s numbers, there have now been 1,746,119 total encounters at the southern border in the 2022 fiscal year – outpacing the 1,734,686 encounters set in FY21, and with still three months remaining in FY’22.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has come under fire for his comments last week, in which he claimed the border is “secure.”