Union City police shared the personal information of its residents to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) despite city officials declaring the city is a “compassionate city” for immigrants, according to emails obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California.
ICE agents were able to access information from the Union City Police Department through its vendor, Vigilant Solutions, according to the ACLU.
The alleged sharing of personal data with ICE agents, could put Union City in violation of California’s sanctuary state law passed last year. In a statement, the ACLU called for cities to immediately cease sharing information with ICE.
But Union City officials say, while the city has a contract with Vigilant Solutions, it does not own Automated License-Plate Readers, which are typically mounted on police cars and traffic lights. Union City Police use Vigilant Solution’s database to track license plate information during criminal investigations, the city said in a statement Wednesday.
Vigilant Solution’s database is a treasure trove of information for not just local police, but ICE, containing roughly 5 billion data points, which can swell by up to 200 million new license plate scans each month.
Union City Councilmember Jaime Patiño said the ACLU’s assessment is incorrect. “If there’s something going on, I’d like to know, but the report is misleading. I hope it’s an oversight. I think it could be more honest.”
As a member of the Union City Human Relations Commission, Patiño co-authored the “Compassionate City” resolution approved by the Union City Council in June 2017.
The ACLU and other media reports labeled Union City a sanctuary city, but like some Alameda County cities they chose the term “compassionate city” instead of the perhaps more divisive “sanctuary city” phrase. For example, among Union City’s neighbors, Fremont is also a “compassionate city,” while Hayward is a sanctuary city.
Anxiety within Union City’s large minority communities has been prevalent for some time. During the most recent city elections, suspicions of whether Union City Police coordinate with ICE was rampant, sometimes dominating significant portions of City Council candidate forums.
“So many people in Union City have a fear that ICE is coming,” said Harris Mojadedi, a member of the Union City Planning Commission. The city has a large number of minority communities, including Latinos, Sikhs, Afghans, Filipinos, and South Asians, among others.
“The city needs to do more to assuage those fears,” said Mojadedi. “We shouldn’t be sharing information with ICE, especially after we vowed to be a compassionate city that respects the live of all Union City residents, whether they are undocumented or not.”
Worries over new reports of Vigilant Solution’s ties to ICE and the sharing of personal information led the Alameda City Council in February 2018 to scuttle plans to enter into a contract for 13 license-plate readers.