ICE Uses Private Data Brokers to Circumvent Immigrant Sanctuary Laws, Report Says


Barbed wire obscures the view of a US flag, pictured at the border.

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US Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses data brokers to circumvent state sanctuary laws while tracking immigrants, according to a joint report released Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and several immigrant advocacy groups.

Though the sanctuary laws restrict ICE’s ability to extract data directly from state and local law enforcement, the report outlines the extent of ICE’s efforts to bypass those laws by contracting private, third-party data brokers such as LexisNexis and its subsidiary Appriss to provide real-time access to immigrants’ personal data and whereabouts. 

The report, Sabotaging Sanctuary, follows on the heels of an April investigation by The Intercept, detailing how ICE has contracted LexisNexis‘ data brokerage service for $22.1 million to surveil immigrants, after previously using a Thomson Reuters-operated service called CLEAR. Sabotaging Sanctuary highlights ICE’s use of Appriss in Colorado to get real-time access to state jail-booking data. Appriss sends ICE an alert whenever someone on ICE’s list of targeted people is booked into a county jail, allowing ICE to arrest the person immediately on their release. 

The ACLU of Colorado argues the state’s sanctuary laws are being undermined by those charged with enforcing them, noting in a Thursday release that board members overseeing LexisNexis’ data warehouse include former Denver and Mesa County Sheriff’s Office officials. The ACLU of Colorado’s immigration campaign coordinator, Ana Temu Otting, called on ICE and private data brokers to comply with state laws against incarceration data-sharing between local law enforcement and ICE. 

“Over the past decade, immigrants in Colorado have secured basic protections and services to ensure a prosperous life for themselves in the state, one of those policies being the protection of personal data,” Otting said in the release. “Yet, tech companies are building the tools used to surveil, incarcerate, and deport our communities, further increasing the mistrust between community and government. Sheriffs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and tech companies must comply with state law that protects the data of all Coloradans.”

In a statement Friday, the ICE said the agency’s use of private data brokers aids its investigations into matters of national security, such as narcotics smuggling and human trafficking.

“The contract provides an investigative tool that allows the agency to easily and efficiently manage information to assist with law enforcement investigations,” an ICE spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “The contract complies with all laws, policies, and regulations that govern data collection.”

Neither LexisNexis nor Appriss responded to requests for comment. 

Read more: ICE Uses Database That Tracks License Plates, Raising Privacy Concerns



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