Understanding Immigration Enforcement Databases

Understanding Immigration Enforcement Databases

Immigration enforcement in the United States is a behemoth system with operations largely shielded from public view. The two agencies primarily responsible for enforcement, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), receive nearly one-third of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) entire budget 

CBP and ICE agents interact with countless people within the United States and have an outsize impact on individuals and communities. These agencies rely on and collect information and data in the course of enforcement activities, some of it sensitive. Yet how the agencies manage this information is difficult to ascertain, and the public has few tools to get answers from CBP and ICE. 

In an effort to document the complicated network of databases and information systems employed in immigration enforcement, the Council filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuitagainst CBP and ICE for related records. The agencies did not provide a comprehensive list of its databases, despite our requests. Both CBP and ICE referred the Council to periodically updated webpages that list privacy compliance documents for required databases and information systems. 

Publicly Disclosed Databases 

The Council sought to compile a list of databases and information systems related to immigration law enforcement to increase public understanding and identify records maintained by the agencies.  

Using DHS privacy and compliance documents, such as PIAs and System of Records Notices (SORNs), the Council created a list detailing known systems. The spreadsheet includes the following information: 

  • Agency and custodian of records 
  • System name and code 
  • Summary and description of system 
  • Privacy compliance documentation 
  • Access information 

The list relies on information the government released publicly. It is nearly impossible to independently verify the government’s information, thus the list may contain inaccuracies and omissions. The Council is making the list available to support public understanding of immigration enforcement databases, and the terms and language the government uses.  

Explore and search the list for information about an agency, office, or type of information

 

Download Spreadsheet

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