The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken its campaign of endless harassment against the Department of Homeland Security to a whole new level of insanity. What’s the ACLU throwing a hissy-fit about this time?
According to Tech Crunch, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and received documents indicating that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) purchased access to a commercial database that allows policing agencies to flag license plates and receive an alert when those plates are caught on traffic cameras.
It is not clear why this revelation required a FOIA action, since federal agencies are required by law to publish a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) any time they begin using a new data source. And the Tech Crunch piece specifically notes that ICE did, in fact, publish several PIA’s during its negotiations with the database service provider.
Nevertheless, according to the ACLU, ICE’s “exploitation” of license plate information raises “privacy concerns” and “violates immigration sanctuary laws.” The ACLU also makes the absurd assertion that ICE is attempting to circumvent proper “oversight” when it calls police departments and asks them for “locally collected driver location data.” (Funny, we thought that was called investigation – and it’s exactly what federal law enforcement agents are paid to do.)
But there are two key problems with the ACLU’s legal analysis:
- As the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has noted in U.S. v. Ellison, every court that has addressed the issue has found that motorists have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their license plate numbers. And computer checks of vehicle registration information do not violate the Fourth Amendment, or any other prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
- Immigration sanctuary laws are illegal. As the Supreme Court has opined in both Gade v. National Solid Wastes Management Assn. and Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council, states are not permitted to frustrate a legitimate Congressional objective by attempting to legislate in a field that is regulated exclusively by the federal government. In Arizona v. United States, the Supreme Court unequivocally stated that “alien registration, [is]a field in which Congress has left no room for States to regulate.”
Translated into plain English, that means the following:
- There is absolutely no prohibition on federal law enforcement agencies, including ICE, using license plate information to find law-breakers. And it does not matter whether that license plate information is gathered through personal observation, by calls to local police departments, or via roadway surveillance cameras.
- Local law enforcement agencies that refuse to cooperate with ICE may well be subject to prosecution on federal charges of obstructing justice.
It does not appear that the ACLU has filed any lawsuits in connection with ICE’s use of license plate data. However, when it inevitably does, its preposterous legal arguments are tailor made to prove alluring to the activist judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – which has an established history of creating “immigrants’ rights” out of jurisprudential smoke and fog.