Berkeley City Council Punishes ICE-Friendly Tech Companies
By Colton R. Overcash | October 31, 2018
A statewide coalition, referred to as The Deport ICE Coalition, is pressuring local governments in California to protect the privacy of illegal aliens by boycotting tech companies that provide data sharing services to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Bay Area, including Berkeley, has been the focus of the coalition’s lobbying efforts in recent months and may have given the pro-amnesty group its first legislative win last week.
On October 16, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Sanctuary Contract Ordinance with almost no debate or public comment. The ordinance, authored by the Peace and Justice Commission, prohibits data brokers who offer “extreme vetting” or data sharing services to ICE from receiving any city contracts.
Data brokers collect information, such as credit history, driver’s license data, phone accounts, court records, and employment information, and sell it to other businesses or government agencies. The ordinance defines “extreme vetting” as “data-mining, threat modeling, predictive risk analysis, or other similar service.”
The ordinance also equips the city manager with aggressive investigative powers that could result in civil and criminal penalties against companies, vendors, and city employees who fail to comply with the new measure. Specifically, the ordinance does the following:
- Authorizes the city manager and any other designee to conduct investigations against companies, vendors and city employees, and to issue yearly reports to the city council;
- Requires city departments to certify its compliance with the ordinance;
- Establishes a legal basis for complainants to force any department, company or vendor into compliance by instituting proceedings for injunctive relief, declaratory relief, or writ of mandate in any court;
- Requires the city to award any damages suffered by a complainant, as determined by the court, including any attorney fees and costs to initiate a cause of action; and,
- Imposes criminal penalties against violators including a misdemeanor charge that carries a $1,000 fine.
Brian Hofer, a spokesman for The Deport ICE Coalition, lauded the vote and said the ordinance will “start impacting these companies’ bottom lines and profits as they start to become ineligible for contracts ... and that’s ultimately [the coalition’s] goal, that [companies] just stop working with ICE”.
Berkeley is the second city in the nation to adopt prohibitions against ICE-friendly data brokers. It follows a policy adopted by the Richmond City Council in May. The ordinance also expands on Berkeley’s sanctuary policies from 2012 and 2017 respectively, and even goes well beyond what the state’s sanctuary law, Senate Bill 54 (SB 54), already requires of each locality to protect illegal aliens from deportation.
Other localities in the Bay Area are reportedly exploring similar policies, including San Jose, Oakland, and Alameda. It remains uncertain as to what impact, if any, the ordinance will have on Berkeley’s city budget. It’s likely that the reporting and investigate provisions within the ordinance will consume time and city resources. Of course, the measure will further complicate ICE’s efforts to enforce the nation’s immigration laws and protect U.S. communities from criminal and illegal aliens.