Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will have a new tool at their disposal as the crackdown on undocumented immigrants continues under the administration of President Donald Trump.
ICE has gained access to a license plate database system operated by a third-party vendor which will allow the agency to track vehicles across the country, including those registered to immigrants.
Although the name of the contractor isn’t listed in documents, an official with the agency confirms that Vigilant Solutions, a license plate tracking company that often partners up with local police as well as vehicle repossession agencies, will also be helping ICE in the future.
The new partnership will allow ICE to track down undocumented immigrants in the U.S. more easily — which, as The Verge points out, includes non-criminal immigrants. The program could also potentially track down immigrants who identify as "Dreamers" because if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program isn’t repaired by Congress soon, those individuals would be treated like others subjected to deportation.
This database would allow ICE agents greater access to tracking down immigrants in jurisdictions that have declared themselves “sanctuary cities,” for example.
Civil rights experts are decrying the partnership, saying it unfairly targets otherwise law-abiding immigrants, and further suggesting it could lead to a slippery slope of surveillance methods.
“Are we as a society, out of our desire to find [undocumented immigrants], willing to let our government create an infrastructure that will track all of us,” asked Jay Stanley, a policy analyst at the ACLU.
The controversy behind the new partnership between ICE and Vigilant Solutions is a symptom of a greater underlying problem. Immigration standards in the U.S. are in need of a huge revision, one that is more empathetic, and treats immigrants as human beings rather than assuming they’re criminals.
The Trump administration needs to find ways to compromise on the issue. Unfortunately, due to Trump’s own apparent biases, it’s unlikely that any reform to our immigration system will come about in the immediate future.