ICE will read license plates to find undocumented immigrants

Credit: Thomas Lohnes

Credit: Thomas Lohnes

Federal immigration agents are getting ready to use a new tool to search for undocumented immigrants -- license plate recognition.

This is the same system that police departments use to look for fugitives who are on the run. A system of cameras and computers quickly scans license plates as cars go by.

Those scans are then run though a database that can identify the owner of the vehicle.

An online technology magazine called The Verge reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement now has a contract with the leading national network of license plate recognition data. It quotes an ICE spokeswoman as saying the information will be used as a tool in their investigations.

If data from Washington is included, it could damage the state’s standing as a sanctuary state.

“I'm really upset and I am outraged about what ICE is doing because I serve on the transportation committee, and this is something that I feared, as we're trying to increase technology, trying to save taxpayer dollars, trying to do a better job of making sure that we have flowing traffic, that we're not putting people at risk,” Seattle State Sen. Rebecca Saldana said.

It may be tough for Washington to avoid sharing license plate information, even though the governor has ordered state officials not to cooperate with immigration enforcement unless required to do so by a judge. That’s because Washington's Good-to-Go tolling system, for example, also depends on license plate recognition and a national database to collect tolls.

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