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License plate cameras. Photo: Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Immigration agents have been using a database of nationwide license plate numbers supplied by local police departments to target unauthorized immigrants, according to documents released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Why it matters: Police departments have long used automatic license plate scanners installed to spot criminal suspects and enforce traffic regulations. But Vasudha Talla, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, wrote in a blog post that the organization has "grave concerns about the civil liberties risks of license plate readers take on greater urgency as this surveillance information fuels ICE’s deportation machine."

Details: The records, obtained by the ACLU from the Department of Homeland Security though a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, revealed that more than 80 local law-enforcement agencies in over a dozen states have voluntarily shared their license plate tracking data with ICE.

  • In some cases, they violated "sanctuary city" policies intended to protect undocumented immigrants by limiting police cooperation with ICE for deportation efforts.
  • More than 9,000 ICE agents have access to the database maintained by Vigilant Solutions, which automatically feeds billions of nationwide license-plate "detections."

What they're saying: ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke, told the Washington Post that agents are using the database to assist the agency's immigration-enforcement probes and that people "who have no connection to ICE investigatory or enforcement activities" are being tracked. Bourke also said that Vigilant Solutions is required to inform the agency when it spots unauthorized uses.

Go deeper

CDC lets child migrant shelters fill to 100% despite COVID concern

Intensive care tents at overflow shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas. Photo: Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control is allowing shelters handling child migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border to expand to full capacity, abandoning a requirement that they stay near 50% to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The fact that the country's premier health advisory agency is permitting a change in COVID-19 protocols indicates the scale of the immigration crisis. A draft memo obtained by Axios conceded "facilities should plan for and expect to have COVID-19 cases."

8 Senate Democrats vote against adding $15 minimum wage to COVID relief

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Eight Democratic senators on Friday voted against Sen. Bernie Sanders' amendment to ignore a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian and add a $15 minimum wage provision to the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

The state of play: The vote was held open for hours on Friday afternoon — even after every senator had voted — due to a standoff in negotiations over the next amendments that the Senate will take up.

CDC: Easing mask mandates led to higher COVID cases and deaths

Customer at a supermarket chain in Austin, Texas. Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

Easing mask restrictions and on-site dining have increased COVID-19 cases and deaths, according to a study out Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The report's findings converge with actions from governors this week easing mask mandates and announcing plans to reopen nonessential businesses like restaurants.