Experts warn data company's contract with ICE will be used to 'criminalize' immigrants

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'Technology under white supremacy and capitalism will continue to be used to fuel violence and harm against us,' one immigration group said.

A well-known legal and data brokerage firm signed a $16.8 million contract earlier this year to sell people's information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, drawing swift backlash from advocates who say the move could adversely harm immigrants.

LexisNexis, a robust tool used for scholarly and legal research, said it provides 10,000 data points on hundreds of millions of people as part of its Risk Solution services. The contract was first reported by the Intercept, which received documents from the Feb. 25 deal from the immigrant advocacy group Mijente.

Personal data now shared between the two entities could include people's credit history and any bankruptcy records, license plates numbers, and mobile phone information, which the Intercept noted could be used to locate and arrest immigrants.

Mijente's field director Jacinta Gonzalez told the outlet that the data-sharing contract could create paranoia and fear among noncitizens.

"You might be in a city where your local politician is trying to tell you, 'Don’t worry, you’re welcome here,' but then ICE can get your address from a data broker and go directly to your house and try to deport you," she said.

Gonzalez continued, "Your state might be down to give you a driver’s license, but that information might get into the hands of a data broker. You might feel like you’re in a life or death situation and have to go to the hospital, but you're concerned that if you can't pay your bill a collection agency is going to share that information with ICE."

Previously, Thomson Reuters' risk industry service, called CLEAR, provided data to ICE, but that contract ended this year. The New York Times noted in 2019 that the information from CLEAR was effective in aiding the agency with deportations of noncitizens.

Other immigration groups have also forcefully pushed back against the LexisNexis and ICE contract.

United We Dream, a nonprofit that advocates for undocumented immigrants, tweeted on Monday, "LexisNexis, along with the private companies that own & operate ICE detention camps, profit off the violence, and trauma against immigrants."

"BIPOC immigrant communities are being surveilled to criminalize us, to find ways to arrest us, detain us, deport us, and to block a pathway to citizenship later. Technology under white supremacy and capitalism will continue to be used to fuel violence and harm against us," the group added.

But LexisNexis Risk Solutions spokesperson Jennifer Richman defended the contract, telling the Intercept, "Our tool contains data primarily from public government records."

"The contract complies with the new policies set out in President Biden's Executive Order 13993 of January 21, which revised Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities and the corresponding DHS interim guidelines," Richman added. "These policies, effective immediately, emphasize a respect for human rights, and focus on threats to national security, public safety, and security at the border."

ICE did not respond for comment by the time of publication.

Across the nation, states have moved to end data sharing with ICE.

In February, Colorado state lawmakers introduced a bill to prohibit the state from using personal information for immigration enforcement.

The Virginia state House on Feb. 3 passed a bill to protect the personal data of drivers in the state. Immigration advocates said ICE agents have used this data to identify and deport immigrants in the past.

States with existing laws that limit information released to ICE include California, New York, New Jersey, and Washington state.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.