Greetings from our authoritarian police state!
As reported today by The Verge, ICE now has the ability to track license plates across the nation in real-time, thanks to a contract the agency signed recently with Vigilant Solutions, a private company that provides thousands of law enforcement agencies access to (among other surveillance tools) its extensive database of license plate records.
The Verge breaks down the ways ICE can potentially use the license plate recognition database: one, to pinpoint someone’s home or workplace by querying historical records, and two, to track someone’s real-time movements. ICE officials have long wanted the ability to locate undocumented immigrants; according to The Verge, the agency took Vigilant’s system for a test-run in 2012 and put out an open call for bids from companies who specialize in this type of surveillance technology in 2014 and again in 2015.
Undocumented immigrants already face several risks while driving, risks that this move by ICE only heighten. While a growing number of states are offering drivers licenses to undocumented residents, most states do not. And for many, routine traffic stops can lead to local law enforcement officials calling ICE or Border Patrol, which can (and often does) lead to detention and possibly deportation.
Aside from the fact that ICE is now increasing its capacity to essentially hunt down undocumented immigrants, shouldn’t we be worried that anyone is using this technology at all? As The Atlantic noted in 2016, in the past, if your local law enforcement agency wanted to track your movements by, say, placing a GPS device on your car, they would first have to obtain a warrant. But now, it can bypass that pesky legal process by paying to gain access to the databases provided by companies like Vigilant Solutions.