Untangling the Immigration Enforcement Web
Basic Information for Advocates about Databases and Information-Sharing Among Federal, State, and Local Agencies
Immigrants are caught in a complex and opaque web of databases, related systems, and information-sharing mechanisms that facilitate immigration enforcement and erect barriers to their full participation in economic and social life in the United States. These databases, systems, and mechanisms often depend on the entanglement of state and local law enforcement or licensing agencies with federal immigration and law enforcement agencies.
Advocates have raised many concerns about how these databases, related systems, and information-sharing mechanisms work. President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders (EOs) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) implementation memorandums will expand immigration enforcement dramatically without due process protections, increase state and local involvement in immigration enforcement, and undermine federal Privacy Act guarantees.
This report doesn’t describe all the numerous information-sharing networks and systems that exist, in part because publicly available information is so limited. Given the lack of transparency at every level of government and uncertainty about how the executive orders will be implemented, many important questions remain unanswered.
But we begin our inquiry by focusing on a few important issues: the mechanisms of federal entanglement with state and local law enforcement agencies (such as Secure Communities, 287(g), and the National Crime Information Center database); the use of gang databases; the use of mobile devices to capture biometrics, such as fingerprints and photographs, in the field; and driver’s license and municipal identification card databases—all of which facilitate immigration enforcement. We also examine the ways in which DHS and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) protect their databases from scrutiny and accountability. Finally, we offer general suggestions on how states and communities can protect their residents.
We hope that the following questions and answers will give immigrants and their advocates a better understanding of (1) how the exchange of data occurs currently, (2) how to evaluate the potential immigration-related risks and benefits of interacting with federal and state authorities, and (3) how to forge strategies and measures that will protect immigrants more effectively.
Download the report by clicking on the PDF icon, above.