ICE Is Not Big Brother

Business Insiderrecently published an article condemning U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s use of fake Facebook accounts when mounting sting operations against “undocumented immigrants.” According to the publication, “The practice violates Facebook’s rules, which prohibit ‘inauthentic behavior’ including running accounts with fake names or accounts that mislead people.”

The Business Insider piece echoes a New York Times“exposé” which purports to explain “how ICE picks its targets in the surveillance age.” The NYT breathlessly decries ICE use of “state D.M.V. databases and information products like CLEAR, from Thomson Reuters, to target immigrants.” And it claims that the agency is pushing the envelope of acceptable behavior because its “work is regulated by only a set of outdated privacy laws and the limits of the technology.”

The obvious intent of both writings is to imply that ICE is improperly engaging in unfair tactics to trick illegal aliens into revealing themselves. “Big Brother” is intruding into the private lives of immigrants and, in the process, destroying our civil rights. But that’s a monumentally dopey argument, for a number of reasons.

First off, as FAIR has repeatedly noted, illegal aliens don’t have any statutorily protected right not to get caught. Federal information protection laws such as the Privacy Act of 1974 don’t give immigration violators special license to conceal their crimes from enforcement authorities. Any government or commercial information databases that ICE can lawfully access are fair game in rooting out and prosecuting violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

As far as social media platforms go, lawbreakers who post information that enables law enforcement to identify them or set them up for arrest do so at their own peril. Neither Facebook’s terms of service, nor any federal, state, or local laws, prohibit law enforcement officers from using information published by an offender as an investigative lead. That’s why neither of the aforementioned articles mentions a single rule, regulation or statute that ICE might be violating.

And while Business Insider makes a big deal out of ICE’s alleged violation of Facebook’s terms of service, the company’s “Authenticity Policy” is impermissibly vague, at best. A large percentage of Facebook users operate under aliases and nicknames, rather than the “name they go by in everyday life.” Many more maintain multiple accounts. It is difficult to see how Facebook can enforce this policy to protect immigration law breakers, and frustrate federal law enforcement efforts, without reviewing all active accounts, in order to hold all users to the same standard.

Furthermore, going back to 1895, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that sting operations are a standard law enforcement tactic, having repeatedly held that, “in the detection of many types of crime, the Government is entitled to use decoys and to conceal the identity of its agents.”

More recently, a federal district court in New Jersey held in U.S. v. Gatson that police may establish fake social media accounts, without a warrant, when investigating law breakers. The fact is, miscreants don’t often seek out police and confess their misdeeds, that’s why detective work is necessary in the first place.

Immigration law-breakers are violating Title 8 of the United States Code. They are subject to investigation and arrest, just like anyone else who is disobeying federal law. When ICE uses various public and private databases, sting operations, and other ruses to draw out illegal aliens and status violators, it’s simply applying standard law enforcement techniques. There is nothing remotely improper or sinister about anything that ICE is doing in its efforts to protect America’s public safety, national security and economic wellbeing.

It would be nice if the mainstream media recognized that ICE isn’t the problem. Immigration law breakers are.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    Our 9th Circuit Courts Judges

    Are apparently more concerned about assuring the foreign invasion destroying America is successful, than they are about real Americans.

  2. avatar

    I agree with Mr Bennett, and all that s going to happen we will pay. For them, Taxes too High Now

  3. avatar

    I personally don’t care how they get their information! Get them! If they are here illegally and the courts have deportation orders on them or they have been deported and they came back acrossed throw them the hell out.

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