Database company LexisNexis is coming under fire regarding its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following reports that the agency used the database to track down illegal immigrants.
Internal documents obtained by Just Futures Law and Mijente show that ICE conducted 1.2 million searches, including "Advanced Person Search" and "Real Time Phone Search," between March and September 2021 using the Accurint Virtual Crime Center (AVCC). AVCC is specifically geared towards police agencies, using nationwide crime data to "detect patterns and deploy resources efficiently," according to the LexisNexis site.
"The searches show that use of LexisNexis to skirt sanctuary laws by ICE is likely happening on a national scale," Just Futures Law said in a statement.
ICE's Homeland Security Investigations department was found to have made the most searches, at approximately 118,000 searches total in June 2021, according to the report. ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), the department in charge of deportations, was also found to have conducted search queries, with almost 48,000 searches in June 2021.
The search queries included individual data such as "businesses, phones, email accounts, vehicles, [and] jails." Just Futures Law said that due to the extent of the queries, "the total number of people queried by ICE could be in the millions."
A total of 21,566 individuals were detained in 2021, with 21% of those arrested by ICE, according to ICE data. Fox News Digital reached out to ICE but did not hear back in time for publication.
"LexisNexis Risk Solutions prides itself on the responsible use of data, and the DHS contract encompasses only data allowed for such uses. The tool contains data primarily from public government records," Jennifer Grigas Richman, director of external communications at LexisNexis, told Fox News Digital. "The principal non-public data is authorized by Congress for such uses in the Drivers Privacy Protection Act and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act statutes."
Just Futures Law stated that the use of LexisNexis in such a capacity contradicts ICE's statement of using the data broker site "strictly… for identifying individuals with serious criminal backgrounds."
"Unfortunately, we're seeing a continuation of harmful surveillance practices under this administration. We need real opposition to the constant expansion of ICE's power and infrastructure, but by providing the agency with invasive tools like Accurint, the Biden administration is just strengthening ICE's institutional position for the future," Dinesh McCoy, staff attorney at Just Futures Law and the lead researcher on the FOIA, said in a statement.
McCoy said there are currently local government efforts in the works to further scrutinize ICE's use of LexisNexis. Cook County in Illinois is scheduled to have a hearing on July 27 to look into the LexisNexis-ICE contract. However, alongside local efforts, immigration groups are also pushing for action from the Biden administration.
"I'm hoping that the Biden administration and other legislative supporters can look at these issues, think about the long-term implications, and act now to really push back on the sort of continued expansion. And really I think an expansion that doesn't often get a lot of criticism from either Democrats or Republicans," McCoy told Fox News Digital.
The Library Freedom Project (LFP) is one of several librarian associations that has come out against ICE's use of LexisNexis search queries. The librarian advocacy group aimed at increasing privacy and resisting the "surveillance state" recently staged action at the American Librarian Association Conference in Washington, D.C., according to The Hill.
"The company is on notice: Librarians and lawyers across the country are calling on them to stop working on deportations and stop terrorizing immigrant communities," Cinthya Rodriguez, a national organizer with Mijente’s #NoTechforICE campaign, said in a statement.
Fox News Digital reached out to LFP but did not immediately hear back.
"ALA has not issued any statements concerning protests at the conference," a spokesperson for ALA told Fox News Digital. "None of the organizations demonstrating during the conference are formally affiliated with ALA. Peaceful public protest is a first amendment [sic] right, and ALA supports that right."
Grigas Richman told Fox News Digital that LexisNexis entered into a five-year-contract "to provide an investigative tool to U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)" on March 1, 2021, after signing a $16.8 million deal, according to The Intercept. ICE was under contract with Thomson Reuters before signing the deal, and ICE still has three other active contracts with Reuters, according to Just Futures Law.
Grigas Richman stated that the contract complied with Biden's January 2021 order "which emphasizes a respect for human rights and directs ICE to focus its civil immigration enforcement priorities on threats to national security, public safety, and security at the border."