Are immigration officials using Utah DMV records to target undocumented immigrants?

Are immigrant officials using Utah DMV records to target undocumented immigrants? (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Utah State Senator, Luz Escamilla said she and other lawmakers want to know whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, is using Utah DMV records to target undocumented immigrants for deportation. The question arose after concerns that visits to the DMV are followed by deportation proceedings for many people.

These concerns surfaced on Thursday when Escamilla started looking into the matter.

“This is very shocking information,” she said.

Escamilla wants people in the immigrant community to know that renewing their driving privilege cards might put them at risk for deportation.

Escamilla met with the Utah Commissioner for Public Safety, whose office oversees the driver license division, to ask whether the feds have access to the information of undocumented immigrants who have driving privilege cards and learned that in fact, they do.

She said the state is not compiling and handing over the information to the feds. ICE is somehow accessing and compiling on its own.

She wants to know how the government is accessing those state records and how long it’s been going on.

The Utah Department of Public Safety issued this statement regarding the matter:

"A concern was brought to the Utah Department of Public Safety by Sen. Escamilla, regarding constituents in her community and potential misuse of the Utah Criminal Justice Information System (UCJIS) to make contact with driving privilege card holders by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Commissioner Squires and Deputy Commissioner Rolfe met with Sen. Escamilla and other legislators. Through detailed discussions it was determined that there has been no apparent misuse of the UCJIS system. All law enforcement functioning within the state of Utah, to include federal law enforcement, have access to the UCJIS system for the purpose of carrying out their duties. The electronic records within the UCJIS system do not distinguish whether a person is issued a driving privilege card or a regular drivers license."

A spokesperson for ICE, Carl Rusnok, said he can neither confirm nor deny that ICE is fishing for such information via DMV records.

“For operation security reasons, ICE doesn’t release information on its investigative techniques,” he said.

Immigration Attorney Aaron Tarin was also at the meeting with the commissioner for public safety.

Tarin said earlier this year, his office noticed a trend: undocumented clients who renewed their driving privilege cards, soon found themselves in deportation proceedings within 30-90 days.

Tarin said in the past, undocumented immigrants who committed crimes were flagged by the DMV. He said that people with no criminal records have nothing to fear as they give the DMV their addresses and other personal information.

“Never did we think that one day we’d have an administration like Trump’s that would be using this very information against people “he said.

Tarin will advise his clients from now on to not renew their driving privilege cards. At this point, in his opinion, the risks outweigh the benefits.

“I’d rather have my clients drive without insurance and no license and get a ticket than be placed in deportation proceedings,” he said.

Escamilla, who advocated for the Driving Privilege Card law back in 2005 (before she was a state senator) said the spirit of the law was not to bait or trick undocumented immigrants into giving up their information.

She finds it very worrisome that the federal government would use state records without notification and intervene in a matter of state public safety.

Her bigger concern right now, is what will happen to undocumented immigrants when they hear this news?

She fears undocumented parents will stop driving their kids to school out of fear and undocumented people generally, will stop applying for driving privilege cards and drive without insurance.

“That’s an impact to the entire state,” she said.

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