Over 80 data privacy, human rights, and government accountability groups on Thursday called on the Department of Homeland Security not to renew Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s $22.1 million contract with LexisNexis that they say allows the government to illegally surveil and deport U.S. residents.
Dozens of groups including the National Immigrant Justice Center, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Project On Government Oversight (POGO), Just Futures Law and Mijente say LexisNexis provides ICE with access to personal and sensitive data that the agency would otherwise need a warrant to obtain. The contract in question has a renewal date of Feb. 28.
LexisNexis, which is a primary personal data provider for ICE, sells the agency access to billions of data points on over 276 million U.S. residents information using thousands of government and commercial records.
“LexisNexis sells ICE access to an unprecedented amount of sensitive and granular personal data and massively expands the agency’s surveillance of Black, brown and immigrant communities, including citizens and non-citizens alike,” the groups wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“LexisNexis is one among many companies in a data broker industry that is under increasing scrutiny by other federal agencies as evidence emerges showing how data brokers’ largely unregulated procurement of sensitive data has far-reaching consequences for our communities,” they added.
The letter states that although LexisNexis claims that ICE’s use of its technology is limited in scope and that the agency does not use its technology to take aggressive actions like separate families and deport immigrants, ICE’s internal documents and emails contradict those claims.
“A June 2021 email from a high-ranking official at ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) trumpeted the widespread use of one of LexisNexis’ invasive search tools, the Accurint Virtual Crime Center (Accurint). Accurint is a data product for law enforcement advertised to provide “a comprehensive view of peoples’ identities,”” the letter states.
The data privacy and immigrant rights groups argue that ICE openly uses LexisNexis “as a backdoor to buy its way around local and state laws and policies that safeguard the rights of immigrant communities.”
Many local jurisdictions in the U.S. have passed laws to stop information sharing between state and city police agencies and ICE that have allowed immigrants to be deported in large numbers.
However, in response, the letter states that ICE has turned to LexisNexis to buy bulk access to the same data many of these laws intended to prevent the agency from obtaining.
In a statement to the Guardian last year, ICE said it uses LexisNexis’s services due to “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.”
According to the letter, local and state government officials are often surprised to learn that the data they provide to a data broker for one purpose, such as a credit check, is then resold to ICE through LexisNexis and in some cases used to carry out deportations.
The data privacy and human rights groups are calling on DHS to permanently cancel its contract on February 28th, the contract renewal date, in order to “stop funding data broker companies that help ICE disregard the will of local governments and put the well-being of immigrant communities at risk.”