ICE Uses a Rigged Algorithm to Keep Arrestees in Detention


Source: The Intercept

In 2013, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement quietly began using a software tool to recommend whether people arrested over immigration violations should be let go after 48 hours or detained. The software’s algorithm supposedly pored over a variety of risk factors before outputting a decision.

A new lawsuit, however, filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and Bronx Defenders, alleges that the algorithm doesn’t really make a decision, at least not one that can result in a detainee being released. Instead, the groups said, it’s an unconstitutional cudgel that’s been rigged to detain virtually everyone ICE’s New York Field Office brings in, even when the government itself believes they present a minimal threat to public safety.

“The federal government’s sweeping detention dragnet means that people who pose no flight or safety risk are being jailed as a matter of course — in an unlawful trend that is getting worse.”

The suit, which asks that ICE’s “Risk Classification Assessment” tool be ruled illegal and the affected detainees reassessed by humans, includes damning new data obtained by the NYCLU through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The data illuminates the extent to which the so-called algorithm has been perverted. Between 2013 and 2017, the FOIA data shows, the algorithm recommended detention without bond for “low risk” individuals 53 percent of the time, according an analysis by the NYCLU and Bronx Defenders. But from June 2017 — shortly after President Donald Trump took office — to September 2019, that number exploded to 97 percent.

“This dramatic drop in the release rate comes at a time when exponentially more people are being arrested in the New York City area and immigration officials have expanded arrests of those not convicted of criminal offenses,” says the groups’ lawsuit. “The federal government’s sweeping detention dragnet means that people who pose no flight or safety risk are being jailed as a matter of course—in an unlawful trend that is getting worse.”

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