Surveillance, Tech & Immigration Policing

IDP’s Surveillance, Tech & Immigration Policing project challenges ICE policing and migration control at the intersection of the criminal legal and immigration systems. This includes tackling the rapidly expanding role of tech corporations in local governance. The project supports organizing to build the collective knowledge and political infrastructure to end state violence and to grow a just digital future.

About the Surveillance, Tech & Immigration Policing Project: Advocates are increasingly having to fight not only a growing policing and punishment apparatus, but also the normalization and rapid expansion of the surveillance state. Tech-fueled surveillance increasingly invades daily lives and communities, from the “digital prisons” where carceral power is expanded through technology, to “smart city” projects in which corporate players tie government services to the commodification of data. Founded in early 2021, the project aims to develop tools and campaigns for advocates to take on these multiple manifestations of the surveillance state. We seek to build community awareness and power, increasing our collective ability to challenge the rapidly expanding role of technology in supercharging state and corporate control. 

  • Stopping ICE Policing & Migrant Control
    The Surveillance, Tech & Immigration Policing project grows out of IDP’s advocacy work to combat the police-to-deportation pipeline and ICE raids. Since 2013, IDP has monitored and researched the trends and tactics of ICE raids in New York, including ICE’s surveillance tactics and surge force programs such as Operation Palladium. ICE has also effectively made local policing an extension of the deportation police force. This includes automatic data sharing between police and DHS, and encouraging police and jails to turn people in local custody over to ICE. We use the information gathered from this monitoring of ICE tactics to help guide our community defense resources and trainings and to build campaigns such as ICE Out of Courts. We recognize that the policing of migrants extends well outside US territory, and work towards an alternative vision of safety and security, as in our report Smart Borders or a Humane World?
  • Cutting Off ICE’s Data and Technology Pipeline
    At its founding, ICE’s strategy identified the critical role that technology and data would play in maximizing the agency’s ability to identify and track people that it could deport. IDP has been a leader in the fight to end the police-to-deportation pipeline, including the campaign to end Secure Communities and the subsequent detainer policy campaigns. In 2018, IDP, along with Mijente and Just Futures Law (JFL), released Who’s Behind ICE: The Tech and Data Companies Fueling Deportation, which focuses on how tech companies are fueling immigration policing. We work to identify interventions to push back against corporate and government use of surveillance technologies and commodification of our personal data. We are part of the Ban the Scan campaign to outlaw government use of facial recognition technology in New York. We also partner with JFL’s COVID-19 FOIA Project, to ensure that a public health emergency is not misused to increase deportation and criminalization. See more here: factsheet on HHS Protect, a vast secretive database designed by Palantir and ICE FOIA records here.

    IDP has been working with Mijente, Just Futures Law, Law Students Against ICE, and Researchers Against Surveillance to call on Thomson Reuters and RELX (parent company to Lexis-Nexis) to end their contracts with ICE. Learn more about how Thomson-Reuters and RELX fuel ICE's deportation machine here.
  • Challenging Biometrics Collection and Control
    The Surveillance, Tech & Immigration Policing Project challenges ICE’s weaponization of biometrics as DHS continues to invest significant resources in identification and tracking technologies. For example, DHS is in the process of building one of the world’s largest biometric databases, the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) System, to increase its power to surveil and police people globally. See our report, in collaboration with Mijente and Just Futures Law, HART Attack: How DHS’ Massive Biometric System Will Supercharge Surveillance and Threaten Rights, and our report Smart Borders or Humane World?

    We are investigating DNA collection of people in DHS custody. If you have information on people who have been swabbed for DNA in connection with a DHS arrest, contact us [email protected]

    IDP is also part of a campaign to pass state legislation to ban rogue DNA databases ( Senate Bill 1347), curtailing reckless DNA collection that is happening most egregiously in New York City. See IDP's memo of support. Also see IDP’s comment opposing the proposed rule issued by the USCIS in September 2020.

    We submitted a 2021 report to the OHCHR’s Working Group on Business and Human Rights on the ways private companies fuel surveillance and migrant control.
  • Exposing Harms of Smart Cities & Digital IDs
    Since 2018, we have been fighting to protect the IDNYC (NYC’s secure municipal ID card) from becoming a digital ID, and maintain the card as is. Digital IDs seem convenient—an online ID or license on your phone—but in reality are massive systems and databases that track and store sensitive info about us and our actions. In addition to our local advocacy, we released a report, Smart-City Digital ID Projects: Reinforcing Inequality and Increasing Surveillance, to highlight the risks of smart-city technologies across the US and beyond. We are currently developing a toolkit and political education resources for advocates, impacted communities, and government representatives about the harms of digital IDs—and alternatives for just digital systems.
  • Another World is Necessary: Ending Perpetual Punishment
    As the migrant control system increasingly draws strength from the carceral system of mass punishment and mass incarceration—both materially and ideologically—IDP's Surveillance, Tech & Immigration Policing Project works to challenge the longstanding logics that fuel policing and mass incarceration and migrant control. We fight the idea that some people represent “a perpetual threat” and therefore are deserving of extremely punitive measures.

    Life Beyond Borders: Oral Histories shines light on a less visible but increasingly entrenched aspect of the carceral system—how deportation expands the reach of perpetual punishment, including the prison-to-deportation pipeline.

    “Smart Borders or a Humane World?” examines the rhetoric of “smart borders” and explores their ties to a broad regime of border policing and exclusion that greatly harms migrants and refugees. We argue that an approach centered on border and immigrant policing is fundamentally incompatible with the realization of a just and humane world.

    Cruel by Design: Voices of Resistance from Immigration Detention highlights the narratives of people who were held in ICE detention. The report makes clear that cruelty is not an aberration or an accident, but the goal of the detention system, which was built to inflict harm and break people’s spirits.
  • Community and Advocate Resources
    Check out our resources for advocates, impacted communities, and media here. This includes our reports, campaigns, community-facing political education and KYR resources, and upcoming and past events.
Contact the STIP team at [email protected]