This article is more than 1 year old

ICE data dump reveals names, locations of 6,000+ asylum seekers

Your tax dollars at work

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "erroneously" posted names and other personal information belonging to more than 6,252 individuals seeking asylum in the US on its website earlier this week.

The data dump happened on Monday morning during a "routine" website update, according to ICE. About five hours later, Human Rights First notified the agency that it had posted tons of personally identifiable information (PII) on its website. 

In an online statement posted Wednesday, the immigration cops disclosed the data breach: 

"A document was erroneously posted to for approximately five hours that included names and other personally identifiable information, along with immigration information, of approximately 6,000 noncitizens in ICE custody," the statement said. "Upon notification, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took swift action to immediately rectify the error. Though unintentional, this release of information is a breach of policy and the agency is investigating the incident and taking all corrective actions necessary."

The agency said it was notifying affected individuals, and taking steps to mitigate harm to those whose data it exposed, including placing a "high interest notice alert" on the thousands of people whose PII was posted online.

ICE did not respond to The Register's questions about what other PII it leaked and where the immigrants in custody held citizenship.

According to the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story, the exposed information included names, birthdates, nationalities, case status, and detention locations of migrants from Iran, Russia, and China, among other countries.

A Department of Homeland Security official told the Times the data dump was potentially dangerous for the individuals involved, many of whom are fleeing gangs and governments that want to harm them, and "embarrassing" for ICE.

"This data breach puts people's lives in danger and only adds to ICE's well-documented history of dysfunction and lapses in internal accountability," the ACLU said about the breach.

These include allegations of misleading asylum seekers and also spying on Americans. Earlier this year, a report from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology revealed that ICE has spent about $2.8 billion over the past 14 years on a massive surveillance "dragnet" that uses big data and facial-recognition technology to secretly spy on most people living in the US.

The research took two years and included "hundreds" of Freedom of Information Act requests, along with reviews of ICE's contracting and procurement records. It details how ICE surveillance spending jumped from about $71 million annually in 2008 to about $388 million per year as of 2021. 

The network it has purchased with this $2.8 billion means that "ICE now operates as a domestic surveillance agency" and its methods cross "legal and ethical lines," the report concludes. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like