25 Investigates: MA barring ICE from accessing RMV records without a warrant or court order

When 37-year-old Helver Alexander Chim was charged with child rape last year in Danvers – he was released on bail - despite a previous arrest in Vermont for entering the U.S. Illegally.

Chim had a Massachusetts driver’s license and a car.

“We were able to track and locate that individual based on vehicle data of a car that he recently registered in the state of Massachusetts,” Todd Lyons, director of ICE’s Boston office. “And other than that, he was pretty much a ghost.”

The state’s Work and Family Mobility Act went into effect in July.

It allows Massachusetts residents to get driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.

State Attorney General Andrea Campbell recently published regulations to specifically bar Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or “ICE,” from accessing RMV data.

Lyons says that limits ICE’s ability to go after people like Chim and foreign fugitives.

As 25 Investigates reported in March, ICE Boston says it’s continuing to see violent offenders coming to Massachusetts.

According to ICE, 37 violent offenders have been captured this year – including ten people wanted in their home countries for murder.

“So we are using specifically data like the one we get from the RMV to go after the worst of the worst,” Lyons said. “We’re specifically focusing on the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities, which are national security threats and threats to public safety.”

Lyons said it’s a public safety issue.

“To have our access to that data limited, that would take us away from going after those types of threats is something that’s really concerning,” Lyons said.

At a meeting Friday to discuss the new regulations, state Rep. Christine Barber from Somerville was one of several who spoke in favor.

“We know from other states, data from driver’s license information has been used in other states against immigrants as a tool towards aid and deportation,” Rep. Barber said.

“We are not allowing people to do this. And if they do that, there are consequences.”

The regulations do have an exception: the RMV could provide records to ICE if the agency provides a “lawful court order or judicial warrant signed by a judge.”

And in that case, the RMV would only disclose records specifically requested in the order or warrant.

Under the regulations, the RMV could also disclose “documents used to prove identity, date of birth, lawful presence or Massachusetts residency” to state or local enforcement officials in cases of criminal fraud.

And, the RMV could disclose documents necessary to identify eligible voters to the State Secretary.

Attorney General Joy Campbell, a Democrat, said the provision is aimed at ensuring immigrants can apply for drivers licenses without fear of deportation.

“We know many immigrant residents are scared that their personal information could be inappropriately shared with ICE and used for immigration enforcement, and it was critical that our regulations address those concerns,” Campbell said. “In our proposed regulations we’ve sought to ensure appropriate information-sharing needed for public safety and transparency while also protecting personal information for all residents, including our immigrants.”

A public hearing on the regulations took place Friday, with public comment accepted until Saturday.

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