We started the year on a mission to build the force against surveillance and policing in the digital war. Tech Wars is a virtual course featuring organizers, professors, and movement leaders from all over the country and available on El Instituto, our online movement education center. From February to April, people tuned in to Tech Wars to discuss and learn more about data, technology, and enforcement and what it means for our gente.
From URL to IRL, this year, we continued to raise the alarm about the cozy relationship between data broker companies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A wave of organizing, lawsuits, and investor actions now face Thomson Reuters and RELX because of their complicity with ICE and CBP:
- In April, Thomson Reuters agreed to a review of its contracts with ICE for possible human rights violations following two years of investor action, supported by Mijente.
- That same month, we released a research report showing how ICE explicitly contracted with RELX for its data broker services to skirt sanctuary protections that were increasingly limited data sharing between local governments, law enforcement agencies, and ICE. In jurisdictions where police are prevented from cooperating with ICE, like Denver, where we first showed this was happening, ICE was instead getting jail booking and other data straight from RELX, going around sanctuary laws.
- At the beginning of the summer, alongside our partner Just Futures Law, we released documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request showing that ICE agents had searched LexisNexis (the main tool provided to ICE by RELX) more than 1.2 million times in just a seven month period—a massive dragnet that targeted people across the country. It was the first time we could show how often ICE was using data brokers to target people.
- In June and July, librarians and advocates targeted RELX at two major library conferences in Washington, D.C., and Denver, calling on RELX to cut its contracts with ICE and gathering hundreds of signatures for a petition targeting the company. More than 2,500 librarians, law students, and legal professionals are now calling on RELX to cut its ICE contract.
- Later in July, commissioners in Chicago held the first public hearing in the country investigating data brokers and their role in helping ICE skirt sanctuary protections. That hearing was seen by legislators in sanctuary jurisdictions across the country.
- At the end of July, we published an op-ed in Truthout speaking directly to fellow organizers. It detailed how ICE agents use LexisNexis to pick people up outside jails and courthouses, going step-by-step to show how ICE agents can know when people are being released from jail even if sanctuary policies prohibit that kind of data sharing.
- In August, we joined our partners Just Futures Law and Organized Communities Against Deportation to sue RELX in Illinois. They violated state privacy laws and the civil rights of citizens across the state by creating massive databases and selling them to ICE — without any consent from residents.
- This November, Mijente joined The Center On Race And Digital Justice, Just Futures Law, Media Justice, and The Immigrant Defense Project in demanding that the Federal Trade Commission hold data broker and data analytic companies accountable with new regulations to protect Black, brown, and immigrant communities from abusive surveillance practices.
We wrapped up 2022 by taking Tech Wars and all our lessons learned this year to #Lánzate2022, Mijente’s political and cultural festival for Latinx change makers. We hosted Tech Wars in-person for the first time in Philadelphia where we brought all five classes to life together.
Community members, investors, academics, and organizers across the country now know that big data and technology companies play a critical role in supporting ICE’s deportation regime, whether under a Democratic president or a Republican one. These companies have only one option: they must cut their ICE contracts and stop facilitating a surveillance dragnet against immigrant communities. And we’ll keep organizing until they do.