Things That Matter

The Government Accountability Office States That ICE And The FBI Are Using DMV Data To Track Undocumented Immigrants

The FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have reportedly been accessing driver’s license photos for facial recognition searches without license holders’ knowledge, according to The Washington Post. Both agencies have had access to millions of Americans’ photos and all without permission from Congress by tapping into state driver’s license databases. This is all being done with efforts to give the agencies a new source of information on people and as a tool to potentially track both criminals and those who have never committed a crime.

Many are concerned that this is a breach of privacy since this is being done without people’s knowledge or consent.

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Millions of licenses were scanned by FBI and ICE agents between 2014 and 2017, without the holders knowing. The FBI and ICE have had access American’s photos through their DMV files which include states like Utah, Vermont, and Washington. This is notable since these states offer a driver’s license or limited permit to undocumented immigrants.

This is thought to be the first known case of ICE agents using facial recognition technology to scan drivers’ licenses for surveillance and crime purposes. The report shows how facial recognition technology has quickly become an integral part of daily law enforcement in the U.S. It’s also being utilized to track down suspects in minor crimes like cashing in a check or theft.

While police have generally had access to info such as fingerprints and DNA, the DMV data allows access to photographs that they then match with suspects. According to the report, while some requests required court order, in some other cases, an email to a DMV employee would be enough to give information on an individual. DMV personnel would then search their data for a potential match and provide it to authorities.

What is ICE enforcement doing with the DMV data?

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According to a report from the Government Accountability Office that was published last month, 21 states allowed the FBI to scan through the DMV databases. Under that same report, it notes that since 2011, the FBI has logged more than 390,000 facial-recognition searches of federal and local databases, including DMV databases.

Now, many are asking what exactly is ICE doing with some of this obtained information. The report doesn’t exactly reveal if ICE search requests have led directly to the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Matt Bourke, an ICE spokesman, told the New York Times that he could not comment on “investigative techniques, tactics or tools” because of “law-enforcement sensitivities.”

However, Bourke did say that “during the course of an investigation, ICE has the ability to collaborate with external local, federal and international agencies to obtain information that may assist in case completion and subsequent prosecution. This is an established procedure that is consistent with other law enforcement agencies.”

Lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle have expressed their disapproval over reports that the federal agencies were using driver’s license photos.

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“This technology is evolving extremely rapidly, without any, really, safeguards, whether we are talking about commercial use or government use,” Elijah Cummings, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman, said at a hearing on the issue last month. “There are real concerns about the risks that this technology poses to our civil rights and liberties, and our right to privacy.”

At a hearing last month regarding facial recognition technology, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said most Americans have yet to be aware or give consent to use their images for facial recognition purposes.

“No individual signed off on that when they renewed their driver’s license, got their driver’s licenses. They didn’t sign any waiver saying, ‘Oh, it’s okay to turn my information, my photo, over to the FBI.’ No elected officials voted for that to happen,” Jordan said.

In various states, undocumented immigrants can obtain drivers’ licenses. But as news comes out about this breach of privacy, many now realize that the data they are providing to get permits is also being utilized by ICE agents.

These states have never told undocumented people that when they apply for a driver’s license they are also turning over their face to ICE,” Harrison Rudolph, an associate at Georgetown, told the New York Times. “That is a huge bait and switch.”

READ: Woman Pays The Bond Of A Woman Being Held In ICE Detention Center And The Internet Is Living For This Moment Of Kindness

Latino War Veteran Files $1 Million Lawsuit Against ICE After Being Detained With American Passport In Possession

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Latino War Veteran Files $1 Million Lawsuit Against ICE After Being Detained With American Passport In Possession

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and lawyers for Jilmar Ramos-Gomez have filed a $1 million lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The lawsuit claims that the agencies acted in a racist manner when unlawfully detaining Ramos-Gomez, a Latino-American war veteran who had his American passport on his person at the time of his arrest. Last week, Michigan-born Ramos-Gomez won a $190k settlement against the City of Grand Rapids after its City Commission voted unanimously to pay the former marine after Grand Rapids Captain Curt VanderKooi invited an ICE officer to “please check his status.” Ramos-Gomez was then detained in ICE custody for three days, even though police body camera footage shows his American passport in the hands of the law enforcement that transferred him to ICE custody.

The new lawsuit seeks data and policies on all wrongfully detained people and policies and procedures regarding people with mental health issues or disabilities.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez suffers from PTSD after serving in Afghanistan. 

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Ramos-Gomez has received numerous medals for his service, which he served between October 2011 to August 2014 in Afghanistan. Often, Ramos-Gomez will ‘come to’ without having any recollection of what happened. During those PTSD episodes, he acts erratically. In November 2018, Ramos-Gomez allegedly set a small fire at a hospital, pulled a fire alarm and was found on the hospital’s helipad during one of those PTSD episodes. He was promptly arrested and pled guilty to a misdemeanor trespassing charge. Later, off-duty Cpt. VanderKooi saw his face on the local news and emailed an ICE officer, asking him to “please check his status.” When Ramos-Gomez was released from jail, he was transferred into the custody of ICE.

“Jilmar Ramos-Gomez fought and served our country selflessly, yet ICE tried to deport this hometown hero and blatantly disregarded his citizenship, service, and mental health challenges,” said Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan. “Mr. Ramos-Gomez and the public deserve to know why the United States government abused its own citizen and veteran, and how many others have suffered in the same way.”

The ACLU is alleging that ICE detained and tried to deport Ramos-Gomez, even though they had documentation that proved his veteran and citizenship status.

CREDIT: @ALEXHORTONTX / TWITTER

The ACLU obtained body camera footage from the arresting officer that shows Ramos-Gomez’s United States passport in his hands. Later, footage proves that the passport was key in identifying Ramos-Gomez. One officer asked if he had been identified, to which the officer responds, “His passport is down there.” Ramos-Gomez was detained in an ICE detention facility from Dec. 14 to 17 last year. 

“This is flagrant racial discrimination against a United States citizen and decorated combat veteran simply because of the color of his skin,” said Anand Swaminathan, ACLU cooperating attorney and partner at the Chicago law firm Loevy & Loevy. “Ramos-Gomez’s own government ignored his irrefutable proof of citizenship, and cruelly detained him because of his Latinx background.”

What’s worse, Cpt. VanderKooi mocked Ramos-Gomez’s mental illness in an email chain obtained by the ACLU.

CREDIT: ACLU OF MICHIGAN

This wasn’t simply a human error. Cpt. VanderKooi forwarded the email chain to the detective assigned to Ramos-Gomez’s trespassing charge, but changed the subject line to read “Spectrum Helicopter Pad Loco,” according to documents obtained by the ACLU, mocking the veteran’s PTSD as “loco” or “crazy.” “It is not clear what mad intent was involved in this breach of hospital security but here is the report,” Cpt. VanderKooi added in the email. Another police officer forwarded the chain to a prosecutor, who replied, “I am confused. Didn’t his property have a U.S. Passport in it? And he was a veteran?!” The officer simply responded, “Who knows, not sure it was a US passport. … I am not sure about the vet thing.”

The information was there, but it seems the intent to discover the truth was less than the intent to deport this man.

Since ICE tried to deport Ramos-Gomez, he “rarely leaves his home.”

CREDIT: JILMAR RAMOS-GOMEZ / FACEBOOK

According to the ACLU, Ramos-Gomez’s mental health “severely deteriorated” while he was in ICE custody. He and his fellow detainees were “mistreated and ridiculed,” and Ramos-Gomez was hospitalized shortly after his release from custody. It’s been exactly one year to the day since that fateful day Cpt. VanderKooi saw a Latino man’s face on the local news and invited ICE to investigate.  According to the ACLU, Ramos-Gomez “now rarely leaves his home or spends time in his community.”

READ: A Latino Veteran Wins $190K Settlement After Being Detained By ICE While Carrying His US Passport

Trump Supporter Joe Giudice Chose Deportation Instead Of ICE Detention Because Of How Bad It Is

Entertainment

Trump Supporter Joe Giudice Chose Deportation Instead Of ICE Detention Because Of How Bad It Is

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In case you missed it, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” star couple, Teresa and Joe Giudice’s family has been in the throes of the US legal system for quite some time. Teresa recently served nearly a year in prison, and her husband, Joe was released from a 41-month prison sentence, only to be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in March. Last month, ICE denied his appeal to await his immigration hearing date from home.

In a recent interview with Andy Cohen, Joe reveals that the ICE facility was so unbearable, he volunteered his own deportation back to his native Italy. In the interview, they reveal that the fate of their marriage essentially lies in the hands of the court, but that they support Trump regardless. Let’s unpack this.

Cohen asked Joe Giudice how he came to the decision not to wait out the appeal in an ICE facility.

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“Sitting in immigration was a waste of time,” he tells Cohen. “You’re doing a whole other sentence for no reason in there.” The strongest comparison Joe could come up with for life inside an ICE facility? A panini press. “There was no way I was going to do another year in that prison facility,” he said. “Being in there is like having your head in a panini press, or in a vice.” 

Teresa and Joe have four daughters together. 

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The youngest is 10 years old. Teresa remarked, “We were getting the phone calls every day and we all said ‘he needs to go.’” She did note that their youngest daughter was “too young to really understand what we were going through.” The family hasn’t been reunited in over three and a half years.

Joe has mixed feelings about his deportation – the silver lining is that he’s no longer in an ICE detention center.

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Cohen asked Joe what it was like to leave the United States, “knowing you may never return.” Joe’s face dropped significantly as he revealed, “It’s never a good feeling. Listen, I’m here. I’m happy that I’m out, but I’m sad at the same time. I’m sad that I’m not with my family. I’m sad that I’m not with my wife and my friends back at home. That’s where my life is. It’s not here. It’s there.”

That said, Joe’s experience of being deported was a celebrity fan fair.

Credit: Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen / YouTube

“They wanted to handcuff me and I was like listen I’m not getting in no handcuffs…” Joe humble-bragged. He said that he would have beat them up if he wanted to escape, but that he wanted to be deported rather than spend one more day in the ICE facility.

Joe said that the two ICE officers assigned to him “were taking selfies with me the whole time.”

Credit: Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen / YouTube

Cohen interrupts to offer a blanket statement: “Tax dollars.” Joe went on to recall, “I think there was someone else that carried a gun or something on the plane. I don’t know. I’m a very dangerous guy I guess. They stood on the plane all the way until we got to Rome. I told them where to go to have a good time cause they were staying there till Monday. So they were heading to a few islands in Naples and then they were heading home.”

Cohen asked Teresa if she’d make a personal plea to Trump to grant Joe citizenship.

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Remember when Trump was just a reality TV star? Teresa enjoyed one season on “Celebrity Apprentice” and has been an outspoken supporter of Trump, even as the Commander in Chief of the facility her husband was wasting away in. Joe admitted in the interview that he wouldn’t wish the ICE facility on anybody. 

Joe also revealed that he’d support Trump “regardless.” 

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Teresa seems to think Trump’s anti-immigration fight is more important than her husband’s fight for immigration. “With the whole immigration thing that’s going on, that he’s fighting for, I would never do that to him,” Teresa tells Cohen. ICE has destroyed their family, and yet, the Giudice’s seem to think their plight for family reunification is second to Trump’s plight for family separation.

READ: Teresa Giudice And Her Daughters Are Pleading With President Trump To Save Joe From Deportation