To resist the Trump administration's cruel immigration enforcement policies, Culver City, California declared itself a sanctuary city.
The City Council passed a resolution in March 2017 declaring the city's commitment "to protecting the safety, well-being and constitutional rights of its residents and the people of the State of California." And yet, Culver City is preparing to contract with a private surveillance company that provides information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), potentially endangering the lives of immigrants who live, work, and drive through this Southern California community.
This year, Culver City's police department announced plans to contract with Vigilant Solutions, a surveillance and data collection company that sells automatic license plate readers, or ALPRs. ALPR systems electronically scan the license plates of cars driving pass. The information collected is matched to dates, times, and location, and built into a database that reveals sensitive information about where individuals work, live, associate, and visit. Vigilant itself maintains a database of 2.2 billion license plate photos collected by its systems, which it has marketed successfully to over 3,000 police departments across the country.
Given this massive database of private information, it's little wonder that the Trump administration is desperate to tap into Vigilant's data.
Why, then, would a sanctuary city like Culver City put immigrants and their families at risk by collecting data about their movements and allowing ICE the opportunity to access that information?
ICE — the overzealous government agency responsible for the devastatingattack on immigrant communitiesacrossthecountry — recently struck a deal with Vigilant. ICE can now access Vigilant's nationwide database of license plate and associated location records for the purposes of targeting immigrants while they are driving to work, running errands, or bringing their kids to school.
Why, then, would a sanctuary city like Culver City put immigrants and their families at risk by collecting data about their movements and allowing ICE the opportunity to access that information? In response to this troubling proposal, the ACLU of Southern California sent a letterthis afternoon urging City Council not to move forward with a contract with Vigilant for ALPR technology, and to live up to the commitments embodied in its sanctuary resolution.
Beyond the threat Vigilant poses to immigrants, ALPR technology itself is worryingly invasive, potentially insecure, and ripe for abuse. Police have used license plate readers to target Muslim Americans by spying on mosques. San Francisco police's blind reliance on these readers led to the wrongful detention of a Black woman at gunpoint, triggering a multi-year civil rights lawsuit. Elsewhere, rogue police have monitored the license plates of LGBT community members. As with other surveillance technologies, police deploy license plate readers disproportionately in poorerareas, regardless of crime rates.
The threat to all people's civil liberties of ALPRs is well documented. In the hands of the Trump administration, this threat can be potentially devastating for immigrant communities. No community in California — including Culver City — should stand for this.
If you are a Culver City resident, attend the City Council meeting this coming Tuesday, March 13:
Culver City City Council Meeting
Tuesday, March 13 at 5 p.m.
9770 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
ALPRs are item A-1, and drones A-2.