ICE Denies Finding Undocumented Immigrants with Stingrays

Thomas Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), denies that the agency locates undocumented immigrants with stingrays, also known as cell-site simulators, in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, sent on 16 August.

Homan told Wyden that ICE continues to follow the guidelines put in place by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice in October 2015, which state that they cannot deploy a stingray without first getting a warrant. The letter was sent in response to one sent by Wyden on 1 August. In it, the Oregon Democrat expressed concerns that the Department of Justice, to which he also sent a, so far unanswered, letter, may not be disclosing details to courts about stingrays and their impact on innocent US citizens.

Stingrays can work out the location of a phone via the method of ‘spoofing’ a cell phone tower and, in some instances, can also intercept text messages and calls. Once deployed, the devices are capable of intercepting data from any phone specifically targeted, as well as from any other phones in the same vicinity.

Although Homan’s letter denies the use of stingrays, he points out that there is virtually no interference with mobile devices not specifically targeted when they are used. The companies that manufacture the device and the government agencies using them, have long been reluctant to provide precise details about their operation.