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Illegal immigration advocates complain about free smart phones

Federal contractors ostensibly issue the phones as a way for illegal immigrants to contact case managers and reach their US destinations. Officials describe the issuance of subsidized phones to illegal immigrants as a less restrictive alternative to detention programs that are designed to make sure that low-risk illegal immigrant families with pending cases show up for court. They say the phones are not used to track or monitor immigrants but that they are a social safety net.
Meanwhile, the volume of illegal immigrants crossing the border illegally has skyrocketed this year. More precisely, 24,616 illegal border crossers were caught at the southern border from October through January, which is nearly triple the amount that rush the border in the same period last year. However, instead of being grateful of taxpayer’s investment, immigration activists are complaining and condemning officials for invading their client’s privacy. “It is concerning whether the women are being tracked through their phones and whether their communications with counsel are confidential,” said Jonathan Ryan, executive director of Raices, a San Antonio-based immigrant legal advocacy group.
Yaneth Guevara Leyva is a typical illegal immigrant with a pending asylum case and recipient of an Galaxy 4 smartphone Obama phone. She received her phone, complete with voice and Internet service, two weeks ago after authorities released her from a Texas detention center. She and her two children, ages 7 and 2, are now in a family case management program as opposed to being stopped at the border. A large number of illegal immigrants entering the border are young males.
Illegal immigrants like Guevara are surprised that they are greeted at the border with a gift like a US taxpayer subsidized smartphone that they could ill afford on the other side of the border.
Guevara, who has a pending asylum case, said she received a Galaxy 4 smartphone complete with voice and Internet service after she and her family, who hail from from El Salvador, were released from one of the Texas detention centers two weeks ago. She said she was told that she was being placed in a family case management program along with her children.
“They told me I was selected because I have small children and for my case, because I was a victim of domestic violence,” Guevara said. “I was surprised because I thought I would get ankle monitors.”
For years, advocates for illegal immigrants entering the US across its southern border have made access to cellphones available to immigrant families so that they could call and send photos to people they plan to meet up with in the US.
“One of the first things they always wanted to get was cellphones before undertaking the long journey,” Ryan said, but those who buy phones often cannot afford the bills that follow.
However, after finding out the subsidized cell phones were part of the government subcontractor GEO Care program that received in $11 million contract from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, illegal immigrant advocates are complaining. This time advocates are casting aspersions on the GEO Care program, suggesting that it is tracking movements of illegal immigrants in the US.
“Considering the number of entities monitoring cellphones in general, it’s hard to believe they’re not being tracked at all,” Ryan said.
Illegal immigration advocates became suspicious upon learning that the GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, Fla., issues ankle monitors to immigrant families and runs eight immigrant detention centers, including the Texas family detention center where Guevara was held.

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