Alternatives to Detention or Alternatives to Enforcement?

Parsing Immigration Policy, Episode 95

By Mark Krikorian, Jon Feere, and Jessica M. Vaughan on March 9, 2023

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Listen to "Alternatives to Detention or Alternatives to Enforcement?" on Spreaker.


Federal law requires that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detain illegal border-crossers pending the completion of their cases. Despite this detention mandate, the Biden administration has been releasing hundreds of thousands of aliens on “Alternatives to Detention” (ATD), where they are monitored via ankle bracelets, GPS tracking, or the SmartLINK app. ATD effectiveness is poor, in part because the monitoring stops years before proceedings are complete, allowing illegal border-crossers to live and often work illegally in the United States for years and to be no-shows at their asylum hearings.

In 2004, ICE permitted a limited and narrowly defined group of aliens who were subject to detention to be released and monitored under ATD – those with a high chance of succeeding in their asylum cases and considered to be at low risk of flight or of threatening public safety. Under the Biden administration, the number being released on ATD has grown from hundreds to hundreds of thousands, and the low-risk standard has been abandoned.

On this week’s episode of Parsing Immigration Policy, Jon Feere, Center for Immigration Studies’ Director of Investigations, and Jessica Vaughan, the Center’s Director of Policy Studies, join host Mark Krikorian to debunk misconceptions about ATD’s effectiveness and warn of the Biden administration’s plans to transform ATD from a law-enforcement tool into a large-scale social services program. When he was Chief of Staff at ICE, Feere found that “approximately 80-90 percent of aliens on the monitoring program eventually abscond if given enough time.”

In his closing commentary, Mark Krikorian, the Center’s Executive Director, discusses reports that the Biden administration is considering a return to the policy of detention for alien adults and children entering the United States illegally in “family units” (FMUs). Krikorian weighs in on whether this halfhearted attempt to enforce our immigration laws is likely to have any effect.

Mark Krikorian, the Center’s executive director and host of Parsing Immigration Policy, moderates this rebroadcast of the Center's panel.


Mark Krikorian is the Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.


Jon Feere is the Director of Investigations at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Jessica Vaughan is the Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies.


Biden Reportedly Considering Family Detention

Should Congress Continue Funding ICE’s Alternatives to Detention?

Half a Million Aliens Released into the U.S. on ‘Alternatives to Detention’


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Intro Montage

Voices in the opening montage:

  • Sen. Barack Obama at a 2005 press conference.
  • Sen. John McCain in a 2010 election ad.
  • President Lyndon Johnson, upon signing the 1965 Immigration Act.
  • Booker T. Washington, reading in 1908 from his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech.
  • Laraine Newman as a "Conehead" on SNL in 1977.
  • Hillary Clinton in a 2003 radio interview.
  • Cesar Chavez in a 1974 interview.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking to reporters in 2019.
  • Prof. George Borjas in a 2016 C-SPAN appearance.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008 comments on the Senate floor.
  • Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes".