This week the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency officially secured access to a license plate recognition database to use for tracking locations in real-time. While many civilians are already concerned about how ICE conducts themselves in raids and arrests, this raises a new concern – privacy.
The recognition system is from a company called Vigilant Solutions, which compiles data from vehicle repossession agencies as well as local law enforcement agencies. Vigilant also collects data from camera-equipped police cars, contributing to an enormous vehicle-tracking network that generates as many as 100 million sightings per month.
This information would be used by ICE to track frequent parking of vehicles, residences and workplaces of people involved in criminal cases. Additionally, this list of tracked vehicles could also be used in ICE sweeps in sanctuary cities. ICE recently has shifted to expand deportations beyond criminal cases, targeting undocumented people, especially those residing in sanctuary cities.
Sanctuary cities are cities and counties in various states that shield people by limiting their cooperation with ICE. This usually means the police or city officials do not operate with ICE agents. Sanctuary cities allow undocumented families to work, earn income and attend school while in the process of seeking citizenship.
ICE raids have gained national attention in the past year, especially after ICE agents were videotaped identifying a Latino man as an undocumented immigrant. The exchange was less than professional on the side of the ICE agents. This shows not only that ICE is biased and rash when addressing people of Hispanic/Latin ethnicity, but also that sometimes, they do not have all of their information.
In October of 2017, ICE agents were also videotaped using hooding as a method of detainment on two protesters in Portland during a protest outside the ICE office. In 2006, the New Army Manual banned hooding as a method in treatment of prisoners of war. The army banned hooding for prisoners of war, but ICE missed the memo.
As if the practices of ICE raids were not deplorable enough, now they are invading the privacy of civilians to carry out their actions.
For ages, the government has attempted various means to invade the privacy of private citizens, and in some cases has succeeded. After 9/11, the Patriot Act was enacted despite resistance from the public. The Patriot Act was claimed as an effort to prevent terrorism, allowing the government unprecedented access to private civilian information.
This new contract between ICE and Vigilant enables even more government surveillance of US citizens. We need to be critical, not only of how ICE conducts themselves in their jobs, but also on how ICE is invading the private space of American citizens.