FACT CHECK: No, Illegal Immigrants Do Not Have Unlimited Text And Internet On ICE-Distributed Phones

Christine Sellers | Fact Check Reporter

A video shared on Twitter purports illegal immigrants have unlimited text and internet on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-distributed smartphones.

Verdict: False

ICE will provide smartphones to illegal immigrants who do not already have one via its Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program, according to its website. The device will only be capable of running the SmartLINK application for case management support and other communications.

Fact Check:

The number of daily border encounters has dropped from 10,000 individuals to 4,400 following the end of Title 42, according to The Hill. The pandemic emergency rules outlined in Title 42 expired May 11, along with the public health emergency declaration, CBS News reported.

“Illegals waiting to fly out of Brownsville to Dallas – paid for by US taxpayers while on their taxpayer paid Galaxy 10 smart phones with unlimited text and internet,” the Twitter video, viewed over one million times, purports.

The claim is false. While ICE does provide smartphones to illegal immigrants who do not have one via its ATD program, the device will only be capable of running the SmartLINK application, according to ICE’s website. The SmartLink application uses facial matching to ensure identity verification and also allows for case management support and other communications.

A June 2022 article published by CNN that highlighted the ATD program and the SmartLink application reiterated phones provided to illegal immigrants do not have internet capability. (RELATED: Does Video Show Migrants Attempting To Cross The US-Mexico Border In 2023?)

Likewise, the claim is neither referenced on ICE’s website nor on its verified social media accounts. In addition, Check Your Fact found no credible news reports suggesting illegal immigrants have access to unlimited text and internet via their ICE-distributed smartphones.

An ICE spokesperson told Check Your Fact that its ATD program began in 2004 in an email.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Alternative to Detention (ATD) program, which began in 2004, uses technology and case management to ensure noncitizen compliance with release conditions, court hearings, and final orders of removal,” the spokesperson said. “The program allows ICE to exercise increased supervision over a subset of those on ICE’s docket, using several different monitoring technologies.”

The spokesperson added that those released from custody who are enrolled in ATD “must comply with the terms and conditions of their release, including appearances at all scheduled court hearings and compliance with ATD requirements.”

This is not the first time illegal immigration has been used to spread misinformation. Check Your Fact recently debunked a claim alleging illegal workers were “leaving Florida in droves.”

Christine Sellers

Fact Check Reporter