BART Station

BART Station (Photo credit: Megan Goldsby/KCBS Radio)

BART Made License Plate Data Available To ICE Despite Sanctuary Policy

Matt Bigler
September 13, 2018 - 8:46 am

OAKLAND — BART security cameras secretly recorded license plates and sent the information to a database shared with federal immigration officials despite the transit system's promise to be a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

The revelations appeared first in the Mercury News. 

The license plate readers at the MacArthur station in Oakland were active for months beginning in January 2017, despite an earlier order from BART officials to keep them shut off. The information gathered by those readers was then uploaded to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal agencies had access to the files, but it's unclear if they tapped into them. 

By August, more than 57,000 license plates had been entered into the system, according to the Mercury News. 

The information flow continued even after June 2017 when BART announced that it would not help federal agents enforce immigration policy. As part of BART's "safe transit" policy, officials announced that they would not share resources with ICE.

"Once it was discovered the system had been activated, [BART Police Department] Chief Carlos Rojas ordered that it be immediately powered off and completely uninstalled," a statement from BART said. The cameras were shut down in November, BART's statement said. 

A BART spokesman has said the use of cameras and transmission of data was an accident and that they've asked for the data to be deleted from the regional intelligence center. 

BART board members are expected to vote on a surveillance policy on Thursday morning at its Oakland headquarters.