These Republicans Want to Put Ankle Monitors on the Sponsors of Undocumented Children

Sponsors are typically parents or other family members—many of whom are legal residents or citizens.

An immigrant from Honduras wears an ankle monitor at a shelter in San Antonio, Texas.Eric Gay/AP


Two top Texas Republican lawmakers have been working on a border security and immigration enforcement bill with input from the Trump administration, according to multiple reports—and it pulls few punches.

Most notably, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul’s bill would force the sponsors of undocumented immigrants between the ages of 15 to 17 who show up unaccompanied at the border to wear ankle monitors so that the teens don’t skip out on deportation hearings. The sponsors are typically parents or other family members—many of whom are legal residents or citizens.

Requiring the sponsors, instead of the migrants, to wear the ankle bracelets appears to be an unprecedented step further. 

The use of ankle monitors on migrants themselves is already controversial. Mother Jones has previously reported that through for-profit companies, and at the cost of thousands of dollars, ankle monitors are offered as alternatives to long-term detention for migrants who can’t afford the lump sum of their bail, even though the monthly payments can eventually overshadow the original bail amounts. Requiring the sponsors, instead of the migrants, to wear the ankle bracelets appears to be an unprecedented step further. 

The early “discussion draft” of the bill also calls to increase criminal prosecutions for immigrants who cross the border illegally, including establishing a five-year minimum prison sentence for those who re-enter the country after being deported. It would expand the use of mandatory detention for immigrants arrested within 100 miles of a border who are from countries other than Mexico or Canada—the overwhelming majority of migrants entering the United States come from Central America. It seeks an increase in detention space, allows for financial reimbursement to states that deploy their National Guard to the border, and calls for more immigration judges to speed up deportations. It calls for various border wall upgrades, but stops short of providing for Trump’s long-promised “big, beautiful” border wall.

The bill stops short of providing for Trump’s long-promised “big, beautiful” border wall.

On Tuesday, a congressional aide told Politico that the bill circulating is “really old” and “nowhere near the current draft.” But it’s unclear what has changed. While the bill is aimed at avoiding the pitfalls of the far right, hardline anti-immigrant groups have come out against it, arguing that because it lacks imposing sanctions on businesses that hire undocumented immigrants and does not provide for Trump’s border wall, it is toothless. “There’s not a single thing about worksite enforcement or anything at all against employers,” Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Washington Post. “It’s tinkering around the margins.”

Both the offices of Cornyn and McCaul declined to comment on the bill, including whether the latest draft still includes a mandate forcing undocumented children’s sponsors to wear ankle monitors.