In my last article, we discussed how the accumulation of big data and information sharing between DHS and state and local law enforcement make it extremely difficult for an applicant for immigration benefits or their sponsor to find out the source of derogatory information, and to attempt to correct incorrect data, or assumptions based on a small piece of data. A new study released by the National Immigration Project (NIP) and the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP), entitled Who’s Behind ICE? The Tech and Data Companies Fueling Deportation, (October 2018) paints a picture of the vast amounts of data accumulated, integrated and wielded as a weapon against immigrants.

The study points out how these huge information-sharing systems and databases, which include not only mass information accumulated from every level of government agency in the U.S., as well as from the Mexican government, but also from the mass personal information it buys from private companies, undercuts the efforts of sanctuary cities to try to protect immigrants from ICE and the deportation machine.

The tech company, Palantir, has built ICE’s case management software (called Integrative Case Management – ICM), which allows officers to review data from all local up to federal government agencies, and create profiles of not only foreign nationals, but also their family, friends, associates and employers. At the same time, we have the highly sophisticated surveillance technology being used by local police, and data mining from utility bills, DMV records, business and property data, health insurance information, cell phone records, biometrics, and social media accounts. Now biometrics includes not just a person’s fingerprints, but also facial recognition and irises (eyes), as well as scars, tattoos and palm prints.

Additionally, ICE runs the SEVIS system, which tracks F-1, J-1,and M-1 students and exchange visitors as well as their educational information, employment, etc. and CBP keeps track of all arrivals and departures via air, land, and sea ports. Add to that all the information gathered during secondary inspections by CBP, as well as tracking of vehicles crossing the border. Regarding foreign nationals who do not arrive via ports of entry, CBP operates the Integrated Fixed Towers (IFT) system which provides surveillance for detection, tracking, identification and classification of illegal entries. Not to mention the day and night cameras fixed to towers along the border recording videos.

Thus, we have seen in the past one year, retaliatory ICE raids to arrest and deport immigrants targeting sanctuary cities, as DHS can easily work around the laws of sanctuary cities restricting the cooperation of city employees with ICE and DHS. Living in a sanctuary city does not protect you from ICE and the deportation machine.

On a national scale, we must organize against these vast invasions of privacy by not only DHS but also other government agencies, as well as the connections between government and large IT companies such as Amazon. Sanctuary cities need to be aware of how their policies and efforts to protect immigrants and minorities are being circumvented.

However, you have the right to request any derogatory information from DHS and you may go to federal court in case of the denial of an immigrant petition. According to federal regulations, the USCIS must provide the applicant or petitioner with any derogatory evidence in the file and allow them the opportunity to rebut it. Both beneficiary and petitioner have the right to inspect the record of proceeding. Thus, you may try to get USCIS to provide you with the derogatory information prior to any denial or adverse action. If you are in removal proceedings, you may cite the case of Dent v. Holder, 627 F.3d 365 (9th Cir. 2010), a Ninth Circuit case which holds that a respondent in removal proceedings has a right to their entire immigration file and should not have to use FOIA procedures to try to get a complete copy of their file from DHS.

If, for example, a marriage petition is denied by USCIS, the petitioner may then file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). If the BIA upholds the USCIS decision, you may file an action in the US District Court to challenge the denial. On the other hand, should an employment-based immigrant visa petition be denied, you may appeal directly to federal court, and an appeal to the AAO (Administrative Appeals Office) is not required. When filing in federal court, you may add any claims that are closely related, such as if DHS has withheld documents in your file from you under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). The federal courts have jurisdiction to review denials of I-130 family petitions and I-140 employment petitions and make a new decision.