App being used to monitor immigrants waiting for hearings

By Greg Hahne
Associated Press
Published: Thursday, March 10, 2022 - 12:25pm
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U.S. authorities have broadly expanded the use of a smartphone app during the pandemic to make sure immigrants released from detention will show up to hearings. Many worry it violates their rights to privacy.

More than 125,000 people have had to download the app Smartlink to their phone, with many having crossed the U.S.-Mexico Border. Three years ago, the number was about 5,000.

The app allows officials to check on individuals by requiring them to send a selfie or make phone calls when asked. But there are concerns about Smartlink’s ability to gather location data from phones. 

Advocates say the requirements are unfair as many have already paid bond while waiting for their case to be heard. 

While most people attend their immigration cases, 2018 court data shows one quarter of immigration judge decisions were deportation orders for those who missed court.