Record Number of Immigrants Enrolled in ICE’s Alternatives to Detention Program

Austin Kocher, PhD
2 min readNov 4, 2021


According to data released by ICE on October 28, 2021, the number of immigrants enrolled in ICE’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program continues to see significant growth during the Biden administration.

The ATD program also goes by the more specific name Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP) or ATD-ISAP-III. Currently, 136,026 people in the United States are monitored using one of three ATD technologies:

  • Telephonic Reporting
  • SmartLink
  • GPS

Although ATD — as the same suggests — provides an alternative to detention (generally a good thing from a human rights perspective), ATD has also been criticized for creating a network of unjustified and invasive immigrant surveillance. Human Rights Watch recently produced a report that illustrated some of the concerns about ATD technologies.

“Ankle monitors in particular pose physical and emotional burdens on those required to wear them. Interview subjects said they were constantly aware of the bulky piece of plastic attached to their ankles. Some attributed this awareness to physical pain; others said the ankle monitors made them feel shame at the stigma rooted in their original use for keeping tabs on criminal offenders released from prison.” (Click here for full report.)

Human Rights Watch also noted that SmartLink, the fastest-growing and now most-used ATD technology in the United States raises particular concerns.

SmartLink “requires enrollees to check in through the application by taking pictures of themselves. This option is used by the majority of individuals enrolled in ICE’s ISAP programs,” the report explains. Moreover, “SmartLINK uses facial verification technology, which studies show does not identify certain racial and ethnic groups as effectively as others.”

The growth of ATD technology used under Biden may help reduce the number of migrants in immigration detention centers, but clearly it also raises new questions about immigrant rights.

To see more of ICE’s detention data, visit TRAC’s Quick Facts tools here:



Austin Kocher, PhD

I study America’s immigration enforcement system. Assistant Professor at TRAC. Graduate of OSU Geography. Online at