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

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 12,859,834 — Total deaths: 567,123 — Total recoveries — 7,062,085Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 3,297,501— Total deaths: 135,155 — Total recoveries: 1,006,326 — Total tested: 40,282,176Map.
  3. States: Florida smashes single-day record for new coronavirus cases with over 15,000 — NYC reports zero coronavirus deaths for first time since pandemic hit.
  4. Public health: Ex-FDA chief projects "apex" of South's coronavirus curve in 2-3 weeks — Coronavirus testing czar: Lockdowns in hotspots "should be on the table"
  5. Education: Betsy DeVos says schools that don't reopen shouldn't get federal funds — Pelosi accuses Trump of "messing with the health of our children."

Scoop: How the White House is trying to trap leakers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has told several White House staffers he's fed specific nuggets of information to suspected leakers to see if they pass them on to reporters — a trap that would confirm his suspicions. "Meadows told me he was doing that," said one former White House official. "I don't know if it ever worked."

Why it matters: This hunt for leakers has put some White House staffers on edge, with multiple officials telling Axios that Meadows has been unusually vocal about his tactics. So far, he's caught only one person, for a minor leak.

11 GOP congressional nominees support QAnon conspiracy

Lauren Boebert posing in her restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, on April 24. Photo: Emily Kask/AFP

At least 11 Republican congressional nominees have publicly supported or defended the QAnon conspiracy theory movement or some of its tenets — and more aligned with the movement may still find a way onto ballots this year.

Why it matters: Their progress shows how a fringe online forum built on unsubstantiated claims and flagged as a threat by the FBI is seeking a foothold in the U.S. political mainstream.