California

Bay Area transit agency sent 57,000 license plates to ICE despite ‘sanctuary’ policy

Passengers board a Bay Area Rapid Transit train in Oakland, Calif., in 2013. BARTsent photos of 57,000 passenger license plates to a database accessible by federal immigration agents despite a “sanctuary” policy forbidding it. The agency calls it an accident.
Passengers board a Bay Area Rapid Transit train in Oakland, Calif., in 2013. BARTsent photos of 57,000 passenger license plates to a database accessible by federal immigration agents despite a “sanctuary” policy forbidding it. The agency calls it an accident. The Associated Press file

In June 2017, Bay Area Rapid Transit directors adopted a “Safe Transit” policy forbidding cooperation with federal immigration authorities, according to The Mercury News.

But directors did not know security cameras at an Oakland, California, BART station had already sent photos of tens of thousands of passenger license plates to a database open to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, KTVU reported.

The cameras, which BART directors had ordered shut off in April 2016, fed photos to the database from at least January 2017 until August 2017 — two months after directors adopted the policy forbidding such contact, The Mercury News reported.

In all, more than 57,000 license plate photos were sent to the database, about 20,000 after June 2017, reported KPIX. A citizens coalition called Oakland Privacy made the discovery after filing an unrelated public records request, the station reported.

“It’s disappointing to me because our values have been around sanctuary and safe transit for individuals,” BART director Bevan Dufty told KPIX. “They ignored a unanimous board vote not to do that and they did it anyway.”

In a statement, BART said the cameras were deactivated and removed in November when agency police discovered they were still operating, reported KTVU.

The agency called the activation of the cameras an accident and asked for the license plate information to be deleted from the database, according to KGO.

ICE declined to say whether it had viewed the license plate photos, The Mercury News reported.

“BART cannot guarantee that those 57,000 people were not ever at risk,” Brian Hofer of Oakland Privacy told KPIX. “BART cannot guarantee that no one was deported because of the information they shared.”

BART directors were scheduled to meet Thursday morning to craft a policy on security cameras and surveillance following recent violence and deaths at transit stations, KTVU reported.

The BART “Safe Transit” policy mirrors sanctuary city policies adopted by several cities across California and the nation, which forbid local agencies from enforcing or helping enforce federal immigration laws, according to CNN.

President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have bitterly attacked such policies, including threatening to deny federal funds to sanctuary cities, CNN reported.

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