Undocumented Immigrants Sue ICE Over its Use of Ankle Monitors in the Dallas Office

A group of undocumented immigrants is asking a federal judge to declare unconstitutional the use of GPS ankle monitors to track immigrants who pose no threat to society.

The suit, filed by Arturo Rodriguez of the Isenberg Center for Immigration Equality, targets the ICE Dallas field office and BI Inc., a Homeland Security contractor and purveyor of ankle monitors. The plaintiffs are asking the judge for damages and a permanent injunction against the use of ankle monitors on immigrants accused only of being in the country without authorization.

In that regard, the plaintiffs have been narrowly tailored, excluding the felons and ne'er-do-wells who make immigration hawks salivate. It only applies to immigrants with strong ties to the community, citizen family members and no criminal record.

The complaint also questions whether ICE has legal authority to demand monitoring for these kinds of immigrants -- a challenge never before mounted.

The monitors, the immigrants argue, are a huge burden -- cumbersome, uncomfortable and with a battery that requires three to four hours of charging every day, effectively tethering them to a wall outlet. Yet they've become a significant component of ICE's overall enforcement strategy.

In 1994, for example, ICE detained some 81,000 undocumented immigrants. In 2011, their ranks swelled to 500,000, costing cash-strapped governments. To stanch the gushing money-hemorrhage that has become immigrant detention, federal prosecutors have only recently begun prioritizing the removal of dangerous immigrants.

For immigrants accused of serious crimes, ankle monitors must be a welcomed alternative to detention. For someone guilty of nothing but violating civil immigration law, it's a kind of scarlet letter -- a "ghost protocol" without statutory backing, they allege -- and one the plaintiffs say they don't deserve.