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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

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Bob Nelsen on AstraZeneca and his plan to revolutionize biotech

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford on Monday reported promising efficacy data for their COVID-19 vaccine, which has less stringent storage requirements than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and may be distributed earlier in developing countries.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the state of vaccine and therapeutics manufacturing with Bob Nelsen, a successful biotech investor who on Monday launched Resilience, a giant new pharma production platform that he believes will prepare America for its next major health challenges.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Updated 23 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Unpacking Joe Biden's decision to tap John Kerry as his climate envoy

Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is naming former Secretary of State John Kerry as a special presidential envoy for climate change.

Why it matters: The transition team's announcement sought to show that it will be an influential role, noting that Kerry — a former Massachusetts senator and the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee — will be on the National Security Council.

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2 hours ago - World

Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries

Waiting, in New Delhi. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

While the 95% efficacy rates for the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are great news for the U.S. and Europe, Monday's announcement from Oxford and AstraZeneca may be far more significant for the rest of the world.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca plan to distribute their vaccine at cost (around $3-4 per dose), and have already committed to providing over 1 billion doses to the developing world. The price tags are higher for the Pfizer ($20) and Moderna ($32-37) vaccines.