Monday, February 22, 2016

Free smartphones for illegal immigrants program under fire

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Kathryn Watson
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are soon going to have to level with Congress about a federal contractor handing free smartphones to illegal aliens released from detention centers.
Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz fired off a letter to ICE Director Sarah Saldaña Thursday, telling her to divulge everything she knows about federal contractor GEO Care giving fully equipped smartphones to some illegal aliens after their release from Texas detention facilities.
GEO Care runs the detention centers and gives illegal immigrants the smartphones so they can contact case managers and navigate their way through the U.S., according to the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story.
“A critic of the program suggested that providing free phones to detainees may counteract a public awareness campaign in Central America that is designed to discourage migration because it creates an incentive to enter the United States legally,” Chaffetz wrote. “Furthermore, smartphones are an expensive technology.”
GEO Group, of which GEO Care is a subsidiary, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation Friday. Since the smartphones are being lent, it’s not clear how GEO Care expects to retrieve them.
GEO Group describes itself as “the world’s leading provider of correctional and detention management and community reentry services to federal, state and local government agencies.”
The company has a $26 million annual contract with the federal government to hold immigrants at 15 ICE detention centers in six states, according to NPR.
Saldaña has until March 1 to hand over the policy ICE or federal contractors use to distribute phones and monitor their use, along with the program’s full cost and history.

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