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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Bud Hawthorne

Keith Hoyt--please read my comment before aligning yourself to it in agreement. You must have stopped after the second sentence.


Bud, Ive been to Dachau. It still smells today in the town . Not just the camp.
No Death you liar. maybe during Obumer's admin.


Hi, Anonymous! What a puzzling comment. You claim to be a naturalized citizen, of unreported origin, and one who has been to the concentration camp called, Dachau. (From this I assume you believe I have somewhere compared these detention centers to concentration camps. I have not). Also, you seem to have found somewhere my claim that death has occurred in one or more of the current detention centers. I have made no such claim. I don't know. But if records of such were proposed as one of the types to be disposed of more readily, I find this concerning. Just a quick, respectful side note about presentation of you views: repeating the same word (such as fake), two or more times, in all caps, does nothing for your point. Which was what again? You see. I've lost it already. Oh that somewhere, concentration camps (which I've not mentioned as a point of comparison), smell up the town around the camp (which is indeed very disturbing, but again, puzzling as a response to me personally), and that I am lying, in claiming that there have been deaths in our own border detention centers (again, I claim to know nothing of the sort). Oh yes, and your suggestion that I let "them" move in with my family. Thank you! That's terrific, suggesting to others that we reach out and help our neighbors in desperate need. To that suggestion, I have looked into offering foster care specifically for children separated from their parents at the border, but it seems I will not have time--you'll be glad to know that the ACLU recently found our way to a ruling that children would be reunited with their parents within thirty days of their parents' arrest. I hope this helps our fearless president along in making good on his promise, as his order for such, though perhaps well-intentioned, was quite vague. You'll also be relieved to hear, I'm sure, that younger children were ordered for reunification within a shorter timeline. What a victory for our country's ethical standing! So in any case, whatever option for offering temporary childcare I might have looked into will hopefully be irrelevant soon, given this ruling. Team work! Trump promises something, the ACLU pushes to help him keep the promise (he is a busy man, after all). As are you, I'm sure, very busy, whatever your nation of origin and current employment. (I'm guessing U.S, and hired troll. If that's the case, with due respect, you're over paid. Read what you're responding to--you are making an absolute fool of yourself and your employer with this nonsensical, even hysterical display. I assume someone checks your work at least occasionally).


Sounds like Nazi concentration camps to me.


I'v been to NAZI WAR CAMPS. you have no Idea. When you come in to the town that house the war camp you can still smell the burnt bodies from 1942-45. You need to get out of your little box of a life and experience the real world. America is not your cup of tea. GET OUT.

Fact check

Where are the citations? As far as I know they intend to destroy hard copy as everything is already uploaded electronically. This move LITERALLY is just saving them office space. These files and information will always be available.


Thank you.

Bud Hawthorne

"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." This is a strange list of records to be clearing office space with. Please explain what you mean by "always available." Available to whom, and entrusted for preservation by whom? Are you an expert on government cloud files, and know for a fact that no corruption, however deep, would potentially jeopardize our right to know what's happening on behalf in these facilities?


Well, I prefer to keep America free from the acts that come with alot of these immigrants and the ones that don't just need to go about citizenship the right way and all is well. Look at the other countries with open borders and see how well it has worked for them. Sweden, Germany- do a search on taharrush in those places and ask yourself if that is what you want for our country???????????????????????????????????????


I AGREE!!! I AM A NATURALIZED American. Since 1959. The Democrats want illegal Votes from NON-CITIZENS. In OREGON they Just LIE on the Drivers license.


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