Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have been allowed to run facial-recognition searches on millions of Maryland driver’s license photos without permission from the state or the courts, The Washington Post reports. In a November letter, a top Maryland officials told state lawmakers that ICE officials had searched through their driver’s license database at least 100 times since 2018. The database reportedly includes the photos, names, and addresses of the 7 million drivers in Maryland. It’s unclear when the searches began, or what arrangement was made that allowed ICE access.
Since 2013, Maryland became the first state on the East Coast to give out licenses without immigrants having to provide their proof of legal status. The state has issued 275,000 licenses since then. The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services official who wrote the letter, Kevin Combs, and Gov. Larry Hogan provided no other details about ICE access or the searches. ICE spokesperson Dani Bennett said the agency’s facial-recognition searches were not “routinely” used for civil immigration enforcement, but were more commonly used for investigations involving child exploitation or cybercrime.