ICE Plans to Start Destroying Records of Immigrant Abuse, Including Sexual Assault and Deaths in Custody

Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently asked the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), which instructs federal agencies on how to maintain records, to approve its timetable for retaining or destroying records related to its detention operations. This may seem like a run-of-the-mill government request for record-keeping efficiency. It isn’t. An entire paper trail for a system rife with human rights and constitutional abuses is at stake.

ICE has asked for permission to begin routinely destroying 11 kinds of records, including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody. Other records subject to destruction include alternatives to detention programs, regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities, and communications from the public reporting detention abuses. ICE proposed various timelines for the destruction of these records ranging from 20 years for sexual assault and death records to three years for reports about solitary confinement.

For years, advocates and communities across the country have denounced human rights abuses in the detention system. Many of the records that ICE proposes for destruction offer proof of the mistreatment endured by people in detention. Given the Trump administration’s plans to increase the size and scope of the system substantially, it is all the more disturbing that the agency wants to reduce transparency and accountability.

NARA has provisionally approved ICE’s proposal and its explanations for doing so are troubling. In cases of sexual assault and death, for example, NARA states that these records “do not document significant actions of Federal officials.” It’s hard to believe that the actions of a federal official are not significant in the death or sexual assault of an individual who is in federal immigration custody. NARA also posited that in cases of sexual assault, that the “information is highly sensitive and does not warrant retention.”

Keeping these documents available is necessary for the public to understand and fully evaluate the operation of a system that is notorious for inhumane and unconstitutional conditions affecting hundreds of thousands of people every year. Even 20 years is far too short for keeping the record of a death or sexual assault of an individual in government custody.

Recent reports by advocacy groups document sexual assaults in detention without adequate investigation or remedy, sub-standard medical care, the overuse of solitary confinement as well as threats and physical assault by custody staff. Since October 2016, there have been 10 deaths in immigration detention. Many of the records used in these reports and analyses would not have been made available without sustained public pressure to force ICE to maintain and divulge this information.

The impacts of detention are devastating on immigrants, their families and communities. For an individual who has been sexually assaulted in detention or for a family member whose loved one died in detention, having a full and thorough record of ICE’s actions, its policies and investigation can be an important step toward vindicating their rights.

If the Trump administration has its way, the number of immigrants in detention will increase, detention conditions will deteriorate further and more people will be subjected to life-threatening circumstances and denied their most basic rights. ICE shouldn’t be allowed to purge important records and keep its operations out of the public eye.

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Anonymous

This seems part of a larger issue of the overuse of prisons. Why are people housed in prisons for so long? Unless someone is a violent criminal or a flight risk, prisons are used excessively. They cost taxpayers money and enrich private business. Prison use is overall a conflict of interest. Throwing out these records supports whoever owns the prisons. Our country has the greatest prison population in the world because it generates revenue, not because it protects the public. Other countries aren't less safe with less prisons. Prisons are a business with practically free labor although Detention facilities may not provide that yet. If these detainees are not being deported, why are they being held for so long? A lot of them were working or going to school, not committing crimes. Americans pay for their detention, don't we?

Wendell Weber

This practice needs to be stopped. Records need to be kept. All government related activities need to stay transparent, long term.

Anonymous

Trumptards. Deplorable. Pieces of shit. Even most of his voters have left his camp. You're all just trumpsheep, letting your shepherd lead you to the slaughter.

Anonymous

It's very easy to pick out the right's comments here, by their atrocious grammar and spelling. It's interesting to see which comments are from a coherent and educated standpoint, and which are from uneducated idiots. I think that if you are going to complain about speakers of another language, you should first have some command of your own.

Mercedee

This is so disgusting! There needs to be a full on investigation on ICE. The tactics they are using are illegal. This particular article shows how they are using actual loopholes, however.

Anonymous

Being here by overstaying your visa is civil matters and crossing the border is a misdemeanor. These people are not criminals. However there are Russian bots here.

Anonymous12

All these negative comments are just plain false & not a very intelligent discussion. The ACLU defends minorities and helps those that can't get justice. Deportation centers are not a pretty site. These centers could, at least be humane, we treat animals better than other humans. These are beginnings of Nazi themed regime. Americans will not tolerate human abuses. Once they are picked up they should be allowed to plead their case or just send them back to their original country. WHO do you THINK is paying for all these detainees anyway? We, the taxpayers are. We are also depriving companies of their employees who have worked here for decades and pay taxes. The tax base is being drained & guess who will pick up the tab? We will - you are not going to see the über rich give back their excessive tax cuts do you? We are becoming slaves to the corporate elite and you don't even realize this. Sad days here in the USA.

justmesuzanne

...because if the Nazis hadn't kept such good records, their resurgence wouldn't have taken so long.

Samantha

So I will talk because I believe it is necessary to explain what is going on. I find it idiotic that trump will be so f**kin stupid to worry about wars and money, and not to worry about the common people. Yes he helps but he only helps who don't need it, or people that are on his economic "level", and he will leave us middle class people to suffer. I live in a town where there is a lot of homeless. How about ignore the rich people for a moment and help the poor. I am not pleading for someone to help me but I am asking for him to at least care for something more than his money and popularity. ( and this is coming from a highschooler)

Richard

You don't get it. All this political garbage you are reading about is nothing but a smoke screen. It's controlled propaganda put out there by entities to take the focus off what is really happening. We all know what this is but do not what to face it because it won't happen in our lifetime. The control of the world by a small group of organizations. When this happens you can kiss your ass good bye. We will all be under the control of these organizations, we will be nothing but controlled slaves feeding their bank accounts, their ego's, their self righteous persona and their belief that they are better and entitled to this role. They are the saviors of mankind and if it were not for them we would all perish. The tragedy of this, is that they believe it themselves. They are very sick and delusional people but they have the money and power to do this. Keep your eyes and ears open, it is happening now and it will happen.

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