Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
Op Ed

Unlawful Tactics Used Against Immigrants?

Federal investigators use surveillance technology on anyone living in a known gang area.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Aug 13th, 2017 10:35 am
Supporters of undocumented immigrants gather recently at City Hall. Photo by Keith Schubert.

Supporters of undocumented immigrants gather recently at City Hall. Photo by Keith Schubert.

With escalated ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids striking nationwide, Milwaukee is no exception. Information will be shared between local and federal law enforcement surely, but how will it be collected? If immigration operations increase here, then will surveillance follow?

Donald Trump built his campaign victory with immigration enforcement at the helm. Since taking office, he’s certainly lived up to some of those promises. Many, however, were unprepared for the nature and tone of the ICE raids to come.

In February, one undocumented Texas woman was derailed from imminent brain surgery by ICE agents, and then deported. Upon arrest, it becomes difficult for loved ones to locate many detainees. Whereas some are quickly deported, others languish in private prisons. Now, Hispanic communities are living in fear that anyone could be targeted. Many have expressed fear of going to work, or even to the store due to recent operations. Even those residing in the U.S. legally fear being questioned about friends, family and neighbors.

Then “sanctuary city” rhetoric began flinging throughout the airwaves. In Milwaukee, the controversial Sheriff David Clarke quickly pledged that the county would be no home for the undocumented. Later, the Milwaukee Police Department changed its immigration policies to more regularly share information with ICE. These changes, spurred by hopes to retain federal grant money, came without public input or notice.

It’s not just raids and arrests Hispanic residents have to worry about though. Surveillance operations are also stepping up, including localized data collection. Law enforcement is using tools unbeknown to most people. Sometimes, even mayors and judges are kept in the dark. Questionable surveillance will become more pressing as ICE begins targeting suspected Hispanic gangs and gang members. In some cases, just living in a known gang area is enough to become a target.

Among the devices aimed at Hispanic communities are cell site simulators. Colloquially known as Stingrays, Hailstorms or IMSI catchers, these produce fake cell phone towers that capture user information from nearby devices. By and large, Stingrays are used to turn cell phones into effective geo-location pinpoints for tracking. They can also intercept, or even hack private messages, texts and emails. Although normally seeking a single device, Stingray can also collect other nearby data in the dragnet. Numerous civil rights organizations have decried the devices for violating privacy.

Strict regulations exist federally for Stingrays, but it is unknown how these are enforced. On the local level, it’s markedly difficult to penetrate the world of police cell surveillance. Even under open records laws, departments normally deny Stingray use.

The Milwaukee Police Department has deployed Stingrays hundreds of times, and outsourced them to nearby agencies. Logs of Stingray use obtained by Wisconsin’s ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) show police departments including Wauwatosa, West Milwaukee, Greenfield and others have requested their use. Even UW-Milwaukee Campus Police were included in the Stingray logs.

Activists and lawyers have long hoped a way to monitor data collection would eventually surface. This year, University of Washington researchers developed a device called Seaglass to do just that. Essentially, Seaglass detects cell tower activity and weeds out anomalies: things like an overpowering signal, broadcast network sifting or the tower itself disappearing entirely.

Seaglass conducted a pilot study in Seattle and Milwaukee using ride-share companies such as Uber. To learn more about Milwaukee’s readings, I contacted lead Seaglass scientist Peter Ney, who mentioned that several towers in Milwaukee seemed to disappear. That could have been caused by an active device in a police vehicle. Cell tower activity is normally stable. When towers do whatever they want, then there’s little other explanation.

The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation also shared concerns with me that police surveillance flourishes in minority communities. Both asserted that residents in target areas must be aware of these operations, and called for transparency.

Milwaukee’s Stingrays originally came from the Harris Corporation, a defense contractor. Since ICE raids under the Trump Administration began, Harris’ stock price has gone up. In the past, Harris has won multi-million dollar immigration enforcement contracts.

As the contractor’s profits increase, one can expect augmented operations to follow. In this precarious age of immigration enforcement, those living in target communities best take heed. How to defend one’s self is a complicated topic — too complex for this one article. However, it all begins with being informed, and paying attention to the effects surveillance has on communities.

Isiah Holmes, a writer and videographer, warns that undocumented immigrants are particularly at risk of being harmed by technological surveillance techniques used by law enforcement agencies.

13 thoughts on “Op Ed: Unlawful Tactics Used Against Immigrants?”

  1. Jason Troll says:

    Another loser issue for the left. If illegal aliens are committing crimes on other illegal aliens or U.S. citizens why protect them from the justice system?

  2. Tom D says:

    Jason, if a person sees a crime being committed, don’t we want it reported to the police? You apparently don’t, at least when the witness is an undocumented alien.

    When we require police to run an immigration check on every person reporting a violent crime, we make the US less safe because violent crime is less likely to be reported in time to do anything.

    Yes, it is illegal to be an “undocumented alien”, but it’s sometimes not criminal (“illegals” brought in as infants, for example, have committed no crime), and it’s almost never a felony; it’s often just a “violation”—even less serious than a misdemeanor.

    “Sanctuary city” policies actually improve safety.

  3. Jason Troll says:

    Tom D, I have no problem with illegals being here, so as they behave like law abiding citizens..My problem is that if a drunk driver that happens to be a Mexican nationalists hits an individual legal or not. with a vehicle. They should be out, If a Chinese nationalist beats his wife or child they have no rights to be here legally. They should pay the price and not be protect by Chris Abele, Tom Barrett and Chief Flynn. What other countries protect thugs that lack citizenship? Your then left wondering why Democrats lose at the polls.

  4. Vincent Hanna says:

    We have a president protecting Nazis and this is what Troll worries about. A white supremacist murdered someone and our president won’t answer a question about whether or not he wants the support of white supremacists and this is what Troll worries about. Can we start deporting these white supremacists please? Troll I’m happy to show you the door.

  5. Jason Troll says:

    Vince, do you label all people that may have another view point as Nazi’s. I am not here to defend these white supremacists. In my opinion, once you start marching out the Swastika you have lost your argument on the statue of General Robert E. Lee. Though with that logic maybe we should rid American history of President Franklin Roosevelt for incarcerating Japanese Americans during World War II for simply being Japanese. Why not incarcerate German Americans? The greatest leaders of the Democratic Party were truly racist. Andrew Jackson the first Democratic President had a deep hatred for American Indians. Harry Truman lived by his wife’s rule of never letting Jews in their home.

  6. Huck L. Berry says:

    “Yes, it is illegal to be an ‘undocumented alien’, but it’s sometimes not criminal…and it’s almost never a felony…”

    Most illegals are actually felons, they just haven’t been charged with anything. If you add up the cost in benefits they steal by being here illegally (health care, school, food, police, sewer, infrastructure, etc), they would be charged with some sort of felony grand theft or fraud.

    “Sanctuary city policies actually improve safety.”

    Sanctuary cities improve safety for illegals, whereas deportation improves safety for Americans.

  7. Vincent Hanna says:

    Ah yes the “but, but, but Democrats were racist 150 years ago” argument. Always a good one. I’m a little more concerned with today Troll and the fact that a white supremacist is president. That should concern you too if you truly aren’t here to defend white supremacists.

    I’d ask Huck for evidence but I’m sure he’d just cite Richard Spencer or Breitbart. How was Virginia Huck?

  8. Vincent Hanna says:

    For the white supremacists: “a slew of studies have found that immigrants as a whole — both legal and undocumented — commit less crime than native-born Americans.”

  9. Huck L. Berry says:

    Calling everybody a white supremacist just because they disagree with you is exactly why Trump won the election. I’m not sure why you hate white people so much, but no amount of virtue signaling, cuckery or genuflection will make minorities like you more.

    “How was Virginia Huck?”

    It looks like it went exactly as the left had planned — disrupt lawfully permitted gathering, start fights, provoke violent response, and then cry victim when they get one.

    Rinse repeat.

  10. Vincent Hanna says:

    Cry victim because a white supremacist murdered someone? The aggressors were the people who showed up armed and in military gear. The governor said he’d never seen so many armed people in one place before. Those people were the white supremacists. And you wonder why I think you are one? Your posts speak for themselves.

  11. Huck L. Berry says:

    Exercising your 2A rights at a permitted event doesn’t make you an aggressor — it makes you smart — since everywhere large groups of democrats go violence is sure to follow. Whether it’s throwing a tantrum during President Trump’s inauguration or silencing free speech at Berkeley, democrats turn to violence as a matter of course.

    I couldn’t care less if the protest was for white nationalism, black separatism, Marxism, Capitalism, or whatever. The group had a lawful permit and were peaceful until people like you showed up and started fights.

    Organize and arm an angry group of anti-American lefties in Riverwest I wouldn’t care. Unlike you, I can actually tolerate opposing views without feeling the need to silence, bully, or get violent.

    If you keep poking a bear and it bites your arm off, you’re not a victim — you’re an idiot. The left has this romanticized notion of the “Resistance”, yet cries like little babies after each provoked response. You reap what you sow.

  12. Vincent Hanna says:

    Have those protesters murdered anyone Huck?

    The woman who was murdered was walking across the street to go home as the crowd was dispersing. She didn’t harm anyone. Any rational human being knows she is a victim and didn’t deserve to be murdered. Again, your posts speak for themselves. You are a racist and a really repulsive waste of skin (only the alt-right says “cuck”). A peaceful protester got what’s coming to them. I mean that’s as low as it gets.

  13. Huck L. Berry says:

    I never said she deserved to be murdered. I’m saying she would still be alive if wasn’t for lefties like you provoking violence.

    Call me racist all you want, it doesn’t make it true.

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