New Report Shows ICE Uses Data Brokers to Skirt Sanctuary Laws

April 20, 2022
Press Release
  • Data & Privacy
  • ICE Resistance

Documents show how ICE uses data from LexisNexis to get around Colorado laws; Colorado law enforcement officials sit on LexisNexis board of directors

Denver, CO — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has contracted with a data broker company for the explicit purpose of skirting Colorado’s sanctuary policies, which are meant to prevent law enforcement cooperation with deportation operations.

The contract, newly revealed today, allows ICE to receive real-time jail booking data from sheriffs offices, alerting ICE agents to the whereabouts of immigrants in county jails. Because they can no longer rely on law enforcement personnel to provide jail booking information directly, ICE is instead buying the data using the third-party data broker company LexisNexis.

LexisNexis, which owns one of the largest databases of personal information in the world, has several contracts with ICE, including a $22.1 million contract to provide personal information on hundreds of millions of people across the country. LexisNexis aggregates billions of personal records and sells them to agencies like ICE, sharing names, addresses, credit history, bankruptcy records, license plates, cell phone data, and more.

Our new report, titled “Sabotaging Sanctuary: How Data Brokers Give ICE Backdoor Access to Colorado’s Data and Jails,” shows how ICE contracted with the data broker company Appriss Solutions, a subsidiary of LexisNexis, to receive jail-booking data from a Colorado jail alert system called VINE, which is run by the County Sheriffs of Colorado. The system alerts ICE agents immediately when anyone on the agency’s target lists is booked into county jails, allowing ICE to arrest them upon release.

Incarceration data alert systems like Colorado’s exist in nearly every state, meaning the backdoor created by ICE may exist nationwide. Colorado’s HB19-1124, like sanctuary ordinances across the country, is meant to prohibit state law enforcement from aiding ICE’s deportation operations. ICE has explicitly named sanctuary policies across the country as motivating its need for LexisNexis software:

“Due to policy or legislative changes, ERO [Enforcement and Removal Operations] has experienced an increase in the number of law enforcement agencies and state or local governments that do not share information about real time incarceration of foreign-born nationals with ICE. Therefore, it is critical to have access to Justice Intelligence services through LexisNexis’ Appriss Insights.

Our report also shows glaring conflicts of interest among Colorado law enforcement officials: At least two current or former high-ranking officials—Vincent Line, the Chief of Operations at the Denver County Sheriff’s Office, who oversees both of Denver’s jails, and Matt Lewis, the former Mesa County Sheriff—sit on the board of a LexisNexis data warehouse that provides data to ICE. The law enforcement personnel charged with enforcing Denver’s sanctuary policy sits on the board of the company contracted to help ICE skirt those policies.

LexisNexis also contracts directly with the city of Denver, which signed a $750,000 data services contract in 2020 that advocates say may violate the Denver Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act of 2017.

“This is proof of something we have suspected for a long time: ICE is contracting with tech and data companies, like LexisNexis, specifically to get around sanctuary laws,” said Jacinta González, the senior campaign director for Mijente’s #NoTechforICE campaign. “ICE agents once relied on the police to help them track us, arrest us, and deport us. Now, tech companies, by selling our personal data, are helping them instead.”

“For years community members have suspected information sharing with ICE,” said Siena Mann, organizing and campaigns manager at the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “People ask us: how did they know to pick me up here? How did they know my address or the names of my family members? This report shows exactly how LexisNexis is accumulating data from commercial sources, but also from law enforcement to survey our communities.”

“These findings are disturbing, but sadly not surprising,” said Pamela Reséndiz Trujano, executive director of Colorado Jobs With Justice. “This is another example in a long history of law enforcement using public dollars to partner with profit-driven corporations, exacerbating the over policing of communities of color and the targeting of immigrant families for deportation. Local officials should end their relationship with data brokers like LexisNexis who abuse their access to data and cause harm to our communities.”

“Over the past decade, immigrants in Colorado have secured basic protections and services to ensure a prosperous life for themselves in the state, one of those policies being the protection of personal data,” said Ana Temu Otting, immigration campaign coordinator at the ACLU of Colorado. “Yet, tech companies are building the tools used to surveil, incarcerate, and deport our communities, further increasing the mistrust between community and government. Sheriffs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and tech companies must comply with state law that protects the data of all Coloradans.”

“The chilling effect of the fear around data being used to persecute undocumented community members has real impacts on access to health care for immigrants in Colorado,” said Miriam Ordoñez, field manager for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “Predatory practices like those outlined in this report deter concerned individuals from accessing necessary health care and financial support. Our undocumented community members deserve the right to feel safe in seeking health care as a fundamental human right and should not have to fear that their data will be shared to harm them based on their immigration status.”