The federal government’s immigration enforcement agency is using mass surveillance techniques to track immigrants, and local police agencies are participating, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is using an automated license plate reader database to track immigrants as they go about their daily lives, according to documents ACLU Northern California obtained under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in 2018, reports Courthouse News Service. “It is appalling that ICE has added this mass surveillance database to its arsenal, and that local law enforcement agencies and private companies are aiding the agency in its surveillance efforts,” said the ACLU’s Vasudha Talla.
The ACLU obtained documents showing ICE spent $6 million on a contract with Vigilant Solutions, otherwise known as West Publishing, which maintains a database of information drawn from automated license plate readers positioned strategically around the U.S. ICE said it signed the contract with a company to gain access to the license plate reader database, but that the agency does not collect or contribute information. “Like most other law enforcement agencies, ICE uses information obtained from license plate readers as one tool in support of its investigations,” said Matthew Bourke, an ICE spokesman. More than 9,000 ICE agents have access to the database, which includes about information collected by private companies, insurance companies, toll booths, tow trucks and other apparatuses. The information hosted by Vigilant Solutions is often used not only by ICE but by various law enforcement agencies as an investigative tool. As for the large number of ICE personnel having access to the database, ICE says it has developed a policy to ensure its use of the database complies with privacy and civil liberties requirements.