EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – With the number of yearly migrant encounters in the millions now, federal agencies are increasingly turning to technology to manage the flows.
At U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officials are using smartphones with face-recognition technology to keep track of thousands of migrants in the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program.
“We have smart-link phones – they look just like iPhones, but without call or internet capability – to communicate with our officers. The face recognition allows individuals to communicate with our office nationwide,” said Mary De Anda-Ybarra, director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in El Paso. “It eliminates the lines we have at some of our offices and allows for them to check in” on time.
ICE can house up to 30,000 migrants in its detention centers nationwide. The alternatives to detention program previously relied on the migrants wearing ankle bracelets to keep track of their location or on the migrant physically reporting to a government office.
In addition to government-issued cell phones, ICE is experimenting with a smart-link watch, which works the same as the phone and has the face-recognition feature but is more compact and can be worn anywhere.
“They’re being looked at to do the same thing but without having to carry of phone or use a GPS monitor. The watches are better because they’re smaller and I understand cost-wise they will be beneficial to us as well,” De Anda-Ybarra said.
ICE was among the dozens of government agencies and private contractors that participated in this year’s Border Security Expo at the Judson F. Williams Convention Center. The fair included contractors showing off artificial intelligence security cameras and a multitude of security gadgets.
Axon attended the expo to show off an integrated system for law enforcement that activates a police officer’s body camera the instant he reaches for his gun or grabs his Taser.
“What makes us different is that all of our products work together. Once an incident starts, all our cameras are automatically recording and notifying your local police station that there’s an incident developing,” a company official told Border Report on Thursday. “This is used by law enforcement in the United States and internationally as well.”
The expo wrapped up on Thursday.