Data brokers provide ‘back doors’ for ICE to target immigrants, report says
Denver County Chief of Operations Vincent Line sits on board of LexisNexis exchange
People gather outside the Aurora Contract Detention Facility on July 18, 2020, at a protest organized by Abolish ICE Denver. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)
Colorado sanctuary laws prevent county sheriffs and state agencies from sharing personal data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But according to a new report, ICE enjoys access to extensive information on the people it targets for deportation through the data sharing platform LexisNexis.
“Colorado law enforcement data gets into ICE’s hands by two main private-sector pathways,” according to the report, “Sabotaging Sanctuary,” which was co-authored by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, national immigrant-rights organization Mijente and others.
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The first pathway is through Colorado Victim Information and Notification Everyday, or VINE, the statewide incarceration data alert system run by County Sheriffs of Colorado through the software product Appriss Insights, owned by Equifax. Colorado VINE allows anyone to sign up to receive phone, text or email alerts when a specific person gets released from jail or prison, is transferred to a new facility, escapes custody or dies. The real-time data used for Colorado VINE is also provided to law enforcement agencies, including ICE, through the Justice Intelligence system, which includes access to mugshots, booking records and more.
“To confirm, CSOC does manage Appriss’s VINE program for Colorado, which is funded through state dollars,” County Sheriffs of Colorado spokesperson Bill Ray said in an email. “However, we have no way of knowing what ICE does in any aspect of its operations and how it might use this or any other system. At the same time, CSOC cannot speak to Appriss’s operations.”
The second data-sharing pathway is through the Public Safety Data Exchange, or PSDEX, platform run by LexisNexis. According to the report, law enforcement agencies including those in El Paso and Denver counties share their criminal justice data with the PSDEX as a condition of access to the Accurint Virtual Crime Center platform. ICE also has access to this platform.
This means that a private-sector company is profiting off of the sale of our communities’ data for immigration enforcement.
– Siena Mann, of Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition
ICE’s use of the Justice Intelligence system from Appriss Insights and the Accurint Virtual Crime Center from LexisNexis is interlinked. According to the report, ICE purchased access to Justice Intelligence as an add-on to its 2021 contract with LexisNexis to use the Accurint Virtual Crime Center.
“This software gives ICE agents real-time alerts when people on its target lists are booked into county jails, allowing the agency to identify and apprehend them upon their release,” the report says. Whether or not the suspects were ever convicted of the crimes for which they were booked into jail, ICE would then have the ability to detain and deport them through the immigration system.
Besides booking and release data, the Accurint platform includes information from phone records, vehicle registration, court and property records, and utility bills, according to the report.
“This means that a private-sector company is profiting off of the sale of our communities’ data for immigration enforcement,” Siena Mann, campaign manager for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said at a virtual news conference Thursday. “These data brokers are creating the back doors to (sanctuary) policies, serving our communities’ data to ICE on a platter and putting at risk trust that we’ve built.”
The report notes that Denver County Sheriff’s Office chief of operations, Vincent Line, and former Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis sit on the PSDEX Advisory Committee.
“We look forward to meeting with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition about their questions and concerns,” Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins said in a written statement provided to Newsline by a spokesperson. “Chief Vincent Line serves in a critical role as the Chief of Operations for the Denver Sheriff Department and continues to do an outstanding job in that role. We hope we can clarify any misconceptions regarding the Department’s use of these programs and the concerns that have been expressed.”
The data sharing issues are not limited to Colorado agencies, said Jacinta Gonzalez, senior campaign organizer for Mijente.
“We know that LexisNexis has a $22.1 million contract with ICE at a national level,” Gonzalez said during the news conference.
Laws aimed to prevent data sharing, cooperation with ICE
The history of so-called “sanctuary” policies aimed at preventing collaboration with ICE goes back years in Colorado. In 2017, the Denver City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting city and county employees from assisting in the enforcement of federal immigration laws or requesting a person’s immigration status. This ordinance also bars ICE agents from using any city or county property to enforce immigration laws.
Two years later, the Colorado General Assembly passed a law prohibiting all Colorado counties from detaining people on behalf of ICE. Through so-called ICE detainers, counties hold in jail people suspected of being undocumented up to 48 hours longer than they would have otherwise been jailed, until ICE can assume custody of the person.
The law does not go as far as preventing counties from participating in ICE’s 287(g) Program, which allows deputies to perform immigration enforcement activities. As of April, Teller County was the sole Colorado county listed on ICE’s website as a 287(g) participant.
Last year, the Colorado General Assembly passed a bill to prevent state agencies from sharing non-public personal identifying information with federal immigration authorities except when they’re ordered to do so by a court of law. Sen. Julie Gonzales and Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, both Democrats from Denver, sponsored Senate Bill 21-131, which Gov. Jared Polis signed into law in June.
The legislators described SB-131 as a response to revelations that state employees at the Division of Motor Vehicles had helped ICE obtain undocumented Coloradans’ personal information when they applied for driver’s licenses.
ICE lays out the need for contracting with LexisNexis to obtain data in a “justification for other than full and open competition” form, which ICE filed in June of 2021.
“Due to policy or legislative changes, (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,” the document says. “Therefore, it is critical to have access to Justice Intelligence services through LexisNexis’ Appriss Insights. There would be a major operational impact on public safety without these screening tools.”
The contract was awarded to LexisNexis Risk Solutions on March 1, 2021, and is active through Feb. 28, 2023, an ICE spokesperson told Newsline in a Friday email.
“The contract provides an investigative tool that allows the agency to easily and efficiently manage information to assist with law enforcement investigations, to include national security and public safety cases, narcotics smuggling, transnational gang activity, child exploitation, human smuggling and trafficking, illegal exports of controlled technology and weapons, money laundering, financial fraud, cybercrime, and intellectual property theft,” the spokesperson wrote. “The contract complies with all laws, policies, and regulations that govern data collection.”
Editor’s note: This article was updated at 2:35 p.m. April 22, 2022, to include a statement from ICE.
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