Ankle Monitors and Curfews: Inside Biden’s New Tracking System for Migrant Families

On a recent evening in California, a woman named Sandra was at a birthday party with her 15-year-old son when she glanced at the clock.

She started to panic: It was after 10 p.m.

She had less than an hour to get home in time for an 11 p.m. curfew set by U.S. immigration authorities, part of a nearly year-old tracking system for migrant families who hope to be granted asylum in the United States.

She motioned to her son that they had to leave, and hustled him out the door and into the car.

They made it home at 10:58 p.m., the bulky GPS monitor on her right ankle pinging out her location to the authorities keeping track. Her heart, which had been slamming in her chest the whole ride home, finally slowed.

Sandra, 45, and her son Justin, who crossed the border in December after fleeing Colombia, are part of a nearly year-old Biden administration program that seeks to quickly process — and potentially deport — many of the migrant families who have arrived in the United States in record-breaking numbers.

The goal of the program is to keep families from skipping out on their asylum hearings and melting away into American society, joining the millions of undocumented people who stay in the country indefinitely under the radar of U.S. authorities.

If the families fail their asylum screenings, they can be deported within weeks. The asylum process usually takes years, with most claims ultimately rejected.

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