McAllen, Texas (Border Report) — Most asylum-seeking migrants who have been placed in the federal government’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) tracking program — to ensure they keep court dates — were enrolled in the South Texas border town of Harlingen.

But a new policy change by the Biden administration could significantly decrease the numbers enrolled in ATD programs, according to some media reports.

Over 65,700 noncitizens currently in ATD programs originated in Harlingen, through the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency, according to the latest data from Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University, which tracks all immigration court cases involving migrants.

(TRAC Graphic)

Currently, there are over 355,000 migrants nationwide who are monitored through ICE’s ATD programs, TRAC reports.

ICE says those placed in ATD have a higher chance of showing up for court, and they live free and undetained.

“Alternatives to Detention (ATD) programs exist to ensure compliance with release conditions and provide important case management services for non-detained noncitizens,” according to ICE’s website. “ATD enables noncitizens to remain in their communities — contributing to their families and community organizations and, as appropriate, concluding their affairs in the U.S. — as they move through immigration proceedings or prepare for departure.”

ATD programs include:

  • Telephonic reporting
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) ankle monitoring devices
  • The SmartLINK app, which allows ICE officers to see real-time images of a migrants location, and sends migrants notifications of upcoming court dates and meetings.

But now some migrants who come from countries that the United States is unable to repatriate noncitizens back to, will no longer be enrolled in ATD, according to NBC News.

NBC reports that the program’s expense is causing the agency to cull from its rolls. This includes Cuban nationals, many who are in ATD and living in Florida.

(TRAC Graphic)

From Dec. 31 to Jan. 14, the number of migrants enrolled in ATD programs decreased by 20,891, according to TRAC data. Over 11,000 migrants were released without any technical tracking from the Harlingen office, according to TRAC data as of Jan. 14.

Border Report has asked ICE officials if migrants are being removed from ATD and for what reasons. This story will be updated if information is received.

ICE reports that it costs less than $8 per day to monitor a migrant via an ATD device. The cost of detention is about $150 per day per migrant.