“In March 2022, Sen. Wyden’s office (D-OR) first revealed that ICE had issued unlawful customs summonses to gain access to a massive trove of personal financial data from money transfer companies,” legal advocates said in a Dec. 12 release. “Public records obtained by Just Futures Law and Edelson PC suggest that the program affected many more people and involved more companies and government agencies than previously known, and that its primary targets are immigrants and communities of color.”
Wyden said at the time that officials had obtained more than 6 million records from transfers of $500 and more, spanning Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. He said that when his office contacted ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) about the program, “HSI immediately terminated the program.” That was the first time any lawmaker in Congress had ever heard about this program, Wyden said.
Legal advocates say in their release that Western Union was among the half dozen money transfer companies that ultimately “provided the federal government access to over 145 million sensitive financial records from plaintiffs’ and others’ money transfers,” including information as private as Social Security Numbers, addresses, and driver’s license and other identification numbers. “Lawyers argue that the companies did so without observing federal legal protections.”
"I'm so disturbed by this invasion of privacy,” said plaintiff Nelson Sequiera. “I was never told that information about my family and our finances would be sent to ICE and other government agencies. I'm filing this case to stand up for everyone who was affected, and to stop this from happening."
Tens of billions in remittances are sent from the U.S. to Mexico every year, the lawsuit said. “Currently, there are 200 million migrant workers that use money transfer businesses to send financial support to dependent family members in their countries of origin.” The fact that money transfer companies are just handing over personal information to officials is an especially terrifying thought for workers who lack legal status in the U.S.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking a court-ordered halt to this practice, the “purging of any unlawfully collected data, statutory and punitive damages for the proposed class, and reimbursement of service fees for California consumers whose personal financial information was shared with the government without following proper legal procedures,” advocates said.
“The government can’t access consumer financial records without following very strict protocols,” said Edelson PC partner Yaman Salahi. “Companies that provide the government with access without following those rules do so at their own risk. We are taking them to court to make sure they respect their customers’ privacy.”
'Flagrant violation of privacy': ICE 'accidentally' posts asylum-seekers' personal information
Senate investigation confirms detained immigrant women were forced to undergo invasive exams
ICE lies again, this time claiming to Congress that detained people have had ‘unabated’ legal access
Comments are closed on this story.