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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Collette

How much more will be tolerated? This is so disturbing and wrong. We need to sue the daylights out of lower levet participants and appointed officials as well. Thus do so sickening....yes....this us who Ametica is now.

Anonymous

Any Trump Apologists left are obviously paid #RussianTrolls. Nobody who isn't on Putin's payroll has any excuse for Trump's Crimes Against Humanity. Rail and deny all you like #RussianTrolls, we still know who you are, we all see you for the paid propaganda-spreading slime you are.

Anonymous

All I’m saying is where is the proof for your claims? Also your putting this on trump but Obama was in office in 2016 so no blame to his administration for these so called crimes?

Anonymous

The ACLU are dedicated to investigate whenever our humane rights are violated. Obviously this finding of the request to destroy any records is disturbing. I pray they leave this evidence alone.

Anonymous

What the f is wrong with you people! These are human being's, children at that. They were helpless and our so called Great America took advantage of these caged children that Trump allowed to be sexually assulted. This is from our government on down. Again, what the f is wrong with all of you people. What if it was one of your kids or family members that this happened to? You would be crying like a bitch. Karma! Karma!! Shame on every one of you. Your souls will burn in hell! !!

Julian Quattlebaum

Are there no pending discovery requests that would make this spoliation? No pending FOIA requests?

Anonymous

As tRumpoid Stated: "Anonymous is a Coward" and can any of you read ? Your statements indicate few of you have comprehension

Anonymous

Just get rid of them.

LadyinLA

Pls keep up the fight. ICE should not be able to destroy records!

Mel

They MUST be stopped. We (Americans) need to document, record, and store ALL records . It is like erasing history. What are they afraid of ?

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