ICE to Use License Plate Readers for Finding Illegal Immigrants

FILE- In this July 16, 2013, file photo, Officer Dennis Vafier, of the Alexandria Police Department, uses a laptop in his squad car to scan vehicle license plates during his patrols in Alexandria, Va. It would violate people's privacy to publicly release raw data collected by automated license plate readers …
AP File Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents plan to utilize license plate readers to find illegal immigrants. Police agencies throughout the U.S. use the systems to apprehend fugitives who have escaped justice, but open borders and amnesty activists are up in arms over the increased enforcement step.

License plate scanning systems use cameras and computers to determine the name of owners of vehicles.

ICE published its intent “to award a contract to obtain query-based access to a commercially available License Plate Reader (LPR) database” on January 8.

According to The Verge, an online technology publication, “[t]he system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking.”

Verge reported that ICE officials said the data came from Vigilant Solutions, but when they contacted the company, representatives from Vigilant Solutions would not confirm there was a contract. Their official statement was: “As policy, Vigilant Solutions is not at liberty to share any contractual details.” “This is a standard agreement between our company, our partners, and our clients.”

The Vigilant Solutions’ website states that “Only Vigilant Solutions’ License Plate Recognition (LPR) platform includes powerful analytics that help to complete the investigative triangle of person, plate and location.” They also assure their users that “Whether you have a partial or full reading of a plate, Platesearch can help you develop leads to solve cases.”

Verge reported that Vigilant Solutions has a database of more than 2 billion license plates and this “massive vehicle-tracking network generat[es] as many as 100 million sightings per month, each tagged with a date, time, and GPS coordinates of the sighting,”

The company states:

ICE agents would be able to query that database in two ways. A historical search would turn up every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years, a detailed record of the target’s movements. That data could be used to find a given subject’s residence or even identify associates if a given car is regularly spotted in a specific parking lot.

Verge noted that a 2015 Privacy Impact Assessment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the “Acquisition and Use of License Plate Reader Data from a Commercial Service” recognized that:

Knowing the previous location(s) of a vehicle can help determine the whereabouts of subjects of criminal investigations or priority aliens to facilitate their interdiction and removal. In some cases, when other leads have gone cold, the availability of commercial LPR data may be the only viable way to find a subject.

ICE agents will be able to receive immediate email alerts when a plate on the “hot list” has been spotted, the technology outlet reported. However, the publication warns that “Those powers are particularly troubling given ICE’s recent move to expand deportations beyond criminal offenders, fueling concerns of politically motivated enforcement.”

Verge noted that after ICE “issued an open solicitation for the technology” during the Obama Administration, then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson canceled the solicitation.” However, two field offices were reported to have “formed rogue contracts with Vigilant in apparent violation of Johnson’s policy.”

As reported, DHS issued a new privacy assessment on LPR technology on December 27 saying it was necessary to do so because “ICE has now entered into a contract with a vendor.” Verge writes, “The new system places some limits on ICE surveillance, but not enough to quiet privacy concerns.”

The Daily Mail wrote that “Word that ICE has access to this system, which would allow agents to track a target’s whereabouts and potential associates over the last five years via their car movements, has sparked civil liberty concerns.”

KIRO7 News in the sanctuary state of Washington noted “It may be tough for Washington to avoid sharing license plate information, even though the governor has ordered state officials not to cooperate with immigration enforcement unless required to do so by a judge. That’s because Washington’s Good-to-Go tolling system, for example, also depends on license plate recognition and a national database to collect tolls.”

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTXGab, and Facebook.

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