BURLINGTON — In a weatherbeaten brick building downstairs from a dentist, the tenants in Suite 1A are carrying out the business of the Department of Homeland Security.
Behind a smoky-glass door, a private company called BI Incorporated monitors immigrants facing deportation with office visits, surprise home inspections, and even GPS devices attached to their ankles, making sure they show up for immigration court or their final departure.
The program has boomed in recent years as deportations soared, and the White House has proposed expanding such monitoring because it is less expensive and more humane than immigration detention. But advocates for immigrants, who have clamored for alternatives to jail, now say the program has morphed into a profit-driven enterprise that subjects thousands of immigrants to scrutiny usually reserved for serious criminals.
“I don’t know why they put it on me. I’ve done everything they’ve asked,” said Norma Urbina, a petite 40-year-old seamstress from Honduras who has worn a GPS ankle monitor for more than a year, though she has no criminal record. “I have four children. Where am I going to go?”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Homeland Security agency in charge of deportations, said the program seeks to compel immigrants to obey court and deportation orders; a decade ago, the vast majority did not. BI said in a recent report that 96 percent of participants attended their final court hearings and 77 percent showed up for deportation.
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