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.

View comments (292)
Read the Terms of Use


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.


When a crime is committed there are consequences how hard is that to understand? and for those that say all they want is a better life for their kids-OK so do I. Do I get to go rob a bank and keep my kids to do so? NO if I break the law I realize I could lose my kids and pay for my crime.


Robbery is generally a felony, while crossing the border is a misdemeanor--comparing the two for their consequences, misleading. Also, this article is about records of people already in detention. If records of abuse were proposed to be thrown away more readily, why do you think that is? Does that not sound suspicious? I'm only asking that you read the article and stick with the content, or the conversation is obscure and frankly, asinine.

Naturalized Citizen

HEAR-SAY, SCUTTLEBUTT, THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE FAKE NEWS .... I'd like too know YOUR sources. Why don't you bus them to Canada. They MIGHT take them with open arms. You are just on the BASH OUR PRESIDENT, TRAIN. I bet if your right that this WAS HAPPENING DURING Clinton And Obuma years. Check that out1

Bud Hawthorne

Dear Naturalized Citizen: The ACLU is involved with issues like this on a national level. Asking them for sources is like suspecting a televised basketball player of having lied about the details of a game at a sports bar where that very game is being televised. The update to the article states that for the moment, this issue is at bay--the very efforts of the ACLU have thankfully prevented any new policy from coming into play, and so if members of ICE should happen to sexually abuse a child, kill someone intentionally or by neglect of basic health needs, we will have access to that info for a reasonably long time; but please don't let any of this concern you, as I feel it may be over your head. More relevant to your current situation: you could stand to sharpen up your language skills. In fewer than a hundred words, you've given me the impression that English may not be your bag. There are many languages using the alphabet you're familiar with, related strongly to Latin. Spanish is a beautiful example of this, in fact, spoken and taught widely here in the United States. Perhaps you could find a teacher recently migrated from Mexico or Central America. Good luck! Bud Hawthorne.


'Most' but not all of you 'anonymous' are Reich Wing f'ing cowards with little to say.


Can a court not subpoena those records for review?


So are the people in the comments just going to ignore the article entirely?

Bud Hawthorne

Yup, and any replies harking back to it. Welcome to the Age of Post-Reason.


Stay Informed