Following an investigation by Univison New York, the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday sued two federal agencies in an attempt to get answers about why customs agents and immigration enforcement officers are using powerful spy devices to track down undocumented immigrants.
The lawsuit cites a recent Univision 41 investigation that revealed how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was legally permitted to use a powerful spy device to track down an undocumented Mexican immigrant in Brooklyn earlier this year.
A federal judge allowed ICE to locate the exact location of Valente Palacios Tellez's cell phone by using a Stingray -- a gadget that imitates a legitimate company cellular tower and tricks nearby phones to connect to it instead.
The ACLU, a nonprofit that fights for the expansion of personal freedoms, had previously filed a formal request for government information about stingrays under the Freedom Of Information Act. The government has not yet provided answers.
The lawsuit states: "Recent reporting indicates that ICE is now actively using them to locate and arrest people, to date the agencies have produced no responsive records. This information is of immense public significance, not only to shine a light on the government’s use of powerful surveillance technology in the immigration context, but also to assess whether its use of this technology complies with constitutional and legal requirements and is subject to appropriate oversight and control."
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which is located in Manhattan.
Univision 41 Investiga has also filed a formal FOIA request for records from ICE, but the agency has not yet responded.
Palacios Tellez, the Mexican man who was tracked down to his girlfriend's Brooklyn home, is now serving a one-year federal prison sentence for re-entering illegally and he faces deportation next year.
–Written and reported by Jose Pagliery