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Tech Used to Track, Deport Immigrants

By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 28, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you are an illegal immigrant, put down your cell phone now.

If you are slightly paranoid about government snooping, put down your cell phone now.

But if you have accepted the idea that immigrants and personal privacy are at risk in the Trump-tech era, then keep reading. It's getting real and the story is in your phone.

Stung by a Stingray

Poor Rudy Carcamo-Carranza blew the cover off this one. He's a twice-deported restaurant worker; well, he was until he was busted recently. Now he's a defendant in a criminal case and soon-to-be, thrice-deported.

Unbeknowst to Carcamo-Carranza, immigration investigators were tracking his cell phone last month to find him. They had a cell tower simulator, which intercepts cell phone communications within a targeted range.

The device, known as a Hailstrom or Stingray, tricks nearby phones into providing location data and can interrupt cell phone service of all devices in the area.

It's actually fairly old tech -- it came in about the time Javier Bardem was tracking Josh Brolin in No Country for Old Men -- but it's really scary for illegal immigrants because now the government is using the technology to find them. Too late for Carcamo-Carranza, but at least he gets some credit for revealing it.

Trump-Tech Is Working

Just as President Trump is basking in his recent U.S. Supreme Court victory banning certain immigrants, now he has another reason to talk about something besides Russian collusion. After Carcamo-Carranza's arrest, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would use "border" drones wherever there is a "mission need."

In other words, the war on immigrants is real. The problem is that everybody else could be a casualty.

"Perhaps people think it only affects immigrants," writes Alvaro Bedoya for the Atlantic. "This is a mistake: Surveillance of immigrants has long paved the way for surveillance of everyone."

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