Update June 28, 2019: Albeit months late, the ICE division in Orange County has now submitted its misuse disclosure. Like every other DHS component, it reported it did not open a single misuse investigation in 2018. 

In response to the looming threat of mass deportations, EFF has sent a letter to California’s Department of Justice (DOJ) asking it to enforce the standing prohibition on using the state’s law enforcement network for immigration enforcement.

In February 2019, the DOJ updated its regulations to prohibit federal agencies from accessing the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) for the purposes of immigration enforcement. This change was part of the implementation of the California Values Act, a 2017 law that generally prohibits California law enforcement from using its resources to assist in deportation efforts. 

Databases can qualify as such resources. CLETS is a network that allows law enforcement agencies to search through a person’s criminal history, driving and parking violations, and driver license and vehicle registration. While the California Values Act made an exception for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) access to criminal histories to comply with federal law, all other uses should be off limits for immigration enforcement. 

Given the ongoing threat of immigration raids, EFF’s letter asks DOJ to pay close attention to the types of searches ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and other U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) component agencies run through CLETS over the coming weeks. Should DOJ suspect that ICE is misusing the system, it should suspend direct access and instead require ICE to submit all requests for information in writing so the queries may be properly vetted.

In addition, EFF has called on DOJ to reprimand the ICE’s Orange County office for its failure to disclose whenever it opened an investigation into misuse of CLETS. In April 2018, DOJ issued an information bulletin to all subscribing agencies making clear that “agencies that fail to report misuse annually will be subject to sanctions, up to and including, removal of CLETS service.” It is now June 2019, and the Orange County office of ICE has failed to make these mandated disclosures.

Finally, EFF’s letter asks DOJ itself to conduct an audit of ICE and other DHS component agencies for misuse of CLETS in 2018. According to data obtained by EFF, not one DHS component investigated itself for misuse last year, despite news reports that federal authorities may have obtained driver records through CLETS and used them in enforcement actions. Agencies like ICE have a mission that runs contrary to the California Values Act; thus, DOJ should provide oversight since these agencies cannot be trusted to self-report misuse.

You can read the full letter here.

Related Issues