As the nation celebrates its independence, a new report serves as a chilling reminder of the unnecessary restrictions placed on the liberty of thousands of immigrants each day. Freed but not Free: A Report Examining the Current Use of Alternatives to Immigration Detention is the first report focused on shedding light on the flaws, inconsistencies, and human impact of current Alternative to Detention (ATD) programs in New Jersey and nationally.

The 56-page report, released today by the Rutgers School of Law–Newark Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Immigrant Rights Program, examines the various mechanisms employed by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)—including in-person reporting requirements and electronic (or ankle) monitoring—to supervise immigrants who are not in detention. For the thousands of participants in ATD programs—many of whom have been deemed neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community—the programs “can be both liberating and debilitating,” the report finds. The report can be accessed at http://www.law.newark.rutgers.edu/irc-publications or at http://www.afsc.org/document/freed-not-free.

“In recent years, there has been significant attention given to the shortcomings of the detention system and a corresponding call by advocates for expanding the use of alternatives to detention,” said Anjum Gupta, law professor and Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Rutgers School of Law–Newark. “But with the call for expansion of ATD programs comes the need to evaluate the fairness of the programs now in place.”

Through interviews with program participants, attorneys, advocates, and government officials, the authors, including Rutgers-Newark clinical law students, identified several flaws in the current system. ATD programs are fraught with the potential for abuse and error; a lack of transparency and accountability; and economic, psychological, and physical hardships on individuals subjected to the programs, the report finds. The report also cites as flaws the overuse and inconsistent use of electronic monitoring, unnecessarily onerous reporting requirements, and insufficient training for ICE officials.

“The current use of Orders of Supervision and ATD programs in New Jersey is unnecessarily burdensome,” said Amy Gottlieb, Program Director of the AFSC Immigrant Rights Program. “These enforcement mechanisms have a detrimental impact on the lives of thousands of community members.  Beyond the daily fear of deportation that they struggle with, the monitoring requirements create onerous restrictions that serve as a reminder as we celebrate Independence Day that some noncitizens are without true freedom.”

Freed but Not Free further states that after September 11, 2001, community-based alternatives to detention were abandoned in favor of increased detention and greater supervision of those not detained. “What we’ve learned is that programs that were intended to be true alternatives for individuals who would otherwise be detained are instead being imposed as additional supervision requirements on who are legitimately outside of detention,” said Gupta. “Although Congress has increased its appropriations for ATD programs, the number of detainees continues to rise, signaling that the programs are not being used as true alternatives to detention in facilities. Under this system, even individuals with no criminal history or who otherwise would not have been placed in immigration detention are being forced to wear ankle monitors, simply because the monitors are available for this purpose.”

The report recommends an end to the use of private contractors in favor of community-based alternatives to detention. The report also calls for increased accountability and transparency, as well as more training for ICE officers. The report also recommends that electronic monitoring be considered custody for immigration detention purposes, and that ATD programs be used as true alternatives for those individuals who would otherwise be placed in detention.