ICE hacked its algorithmic risk-assessment tool so it recommended detention for everyone

One of the more fascinating and horrible details in Reuters' thoroughly fascinating and horrible long-form report on Trump's cruel border policies is this nugget: ICE hacked the risk-assessment tool it used to decide whom to imprison so that it recommended that everyone should be detained.

This gave ICE a kind of empirical facewash for its racist and inhumane policies: they could claim that the computer forced them to imprison people by identifying them as high-risk. The policy let ICE triple its detention rate, imprisoning 43,000 people.

The risk assessment software requires the ICE agent to ask the immigrant up to 178 questions and the assessment must be reviewed twice, which the DHS claimed can “add several hours to alien intake processing.” Although the assessment asks for biometric information, details of the apprehension, special vulnerabilities such as mental illness, and about community ties, it does not take into account things like the rate at which detainees are later granted asylum or those that were granted bond release and then went into hiding. Not including this follow up data makes it difficult to determine the accuracy of the system and increase its predictive capabilities.

In a 2015 review of the risk assessment system, the DHS claims the software is ineffective when it comes to complex cases, which the computer system will refer to a ICE supervising officer. According to the DHS, during its first year of use the system was unable to make a detain or release recommendation on nearly 20 percent of all cases. Furthermore, ICE officers ended up overriding nearly 22 percent of case decisions made by the system during the first year. Subsequent algorithm changes made by ICE in 2014 reduced the override rate to 7.6 percent.

Prior to ICE’s changes to its risk assessment software that result in mandatory detention for all apprehended immigrants, the only immigrants that would automatically be detained were those with serious criminal histories. According to the most recent data released by ICE cited in the Reuters report, the most serious crime committed by nearly half of arrested immigrants during the first 100 days of the Trump administration were traffic violations, which didn’t include drunk driving.

ICE Modified Its 'Risk Assessment' Software So It Automatically Recommends Detention [Daniel Oberhaus/Motherboard]

(Image: Cryteria, CC-BY)

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