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

UPDATE (05/29/2018): The ACLU and partners submitted public comments opposing Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s request to the National Archives and Records Administration last year. As a result of the campaign and overwhelming opposition from the public, NARA decided to review ICE’s proposal more closely. As of now, ICE has not made a new proposal regarding the destruction of these records. Government agencies with a long and well-documented record of abuse should not be permitted to destroy records about those abuses. We will continue to keep a watchful eye for attempts by ICE and CBP to destroy records about their own wrongdoings.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently asked the National Archives and Records 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

Clearly, you need professional help. Death camps and Hitler? Emotions can be controlled with logic, Yolanda. Make your own decisions instead of following the liberal agenda. You are becoming what you claim to despise.

Anonymous

Not sure if this is trolling, baiting, or legitimate excess. But on the plus side, if anyone thinks your comment justifies their own opposing worldview, then they're also completely off base.

Michael

To those denying trump's actions as somehow not having any resemblance to a dictator they probably only watch one news channel which is called Fox which continues to support This administration as if they're part of it Trump has been slowly really Not slowly, breaking down America's democratic values not liberal values democratic Values. The comparison to Hitler I see is more as the policies in the beginning of his takeover of Germany by attacking the media as those in charge turned a blind eye making them complicit in his actions as the media except for the state media was silenced they attacked the people they wanted to make scapegoats for everything wrong that was going on in Germany at the time, calling them illegals substandard and worse, putting them in camps, ripping their children from their arms, when you as a people turn a blind eye to such actions you become complicit in it, and the more we all stay silent the more we all allow it to continue and get worse.

Anonymous

Who are all these trolls?!

Anonymous

It’ll stop, not all Americans are ignorant of history like Trump voters, in denial of Trump’s demagoguery and authoritarian ambitions, and racist. Younger voters will chase all the Trump victims back under their rocks.

Mike

There was a time when I would have thought your statement outrageous and was so sure this could never happen here. Now, I am not sure. I do not think it is outside the realm of possibility though I do not think he has plans to get rid of Jews. His 30% hardcore base has lots of Evangelicals and they back Israel without question. I do think that the police militarization and brutality are not accidental. They are implementing it on minorities first and getting people used to accepting summary executions in the street without a trial (that is what police killings are). There is a group of people whose knee-jerk reaction is to support the police without question. it will be harder when they branch out and start shooting those Trump considers undesirable. I'm not saying it is definitely going ot happen, but we have a Commander in Chief who despises being restrained by the rule of law and the Constitution and who would destroy the country if that is what it takes to keep him from being held accountable.

Anonymous

Yolanda, right? Who is he coming after next?

yolanda

Trump has formed jewish death camps only they have other immigrants detained but soon it will be other americans that he considers undesireables its hitler all over again it needs to stop

yolanda

Trump has formed jewish death camps only they have other immigrants detained but soon it will be other americans that he considers undesireables its hitler all over again it needs to stop

Anonymous

I agree you are so right.

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