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Over the last 10 years, immigration officials have been the expanding the use of what they call “alternatives to detention” (ATD) for immigrants released from their custody: ankle monitors, telephone check-ins, home visits and so on. The idea is find ways to ensure that immigrants will show up for court hearings, without needing to detain them for the full period that their case makes its way through the system, which can take years. There are currently about 12,000 immigrants wearing ankle monitors. By 2016, the Department of Homeland Security plans to expand to 50,000 immigrants on some form of supervision.

Immigrant advocates say the ankle monitors aren’t a true “alternative to detention,” but rather a way to expand the scope of detention and to further punish immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. They point to evidence that more humane tools —like providing legal help to immigrants— are just as effective at getting people to show up to their hearings. And they question how appropriate is it to strap ankle monitors on mothers seeking asylum with their young children, one of the groups that has been seeing more and more use of the monitors. Latino USA investigates.

Featured image: John Moore/Getty Images