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

Hate makes you miserable and miserable to be around. Don’t waste your life. Life is short.

Anonymous

Hillary shreds 30,000 emails and other documents of her history but y’all dont care about that. Only leftist media crap.

Anonymous

A holaucaust of the modern fays

Chris

Except, you are misrepresenting here since the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is a non-partisan and independent agency. According to your source, "NARA has provisionally approved ICE’s proposal." If it is so egregious a request, why would NARA provisionally approve it? Also, from the article, "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." That is hardly destroying/hiding evidence so no one can ever access them--not like destroying cellphones or hard drives like a certain presidential candidate! As long as the timelines are transparent and made public so researchers can know and access them, I do not see a problem here....and, apparently, neither does the National Archives.

Mira Talbott Pope

Where is your petition to Congress to protest this request and ask NARA to keep these records available to Congress and-0r the public.????

Anonymous

Many of these documents seem relevant to ongoing litigation and should be subject to litigation holds.

Anonymous

Disgusting! JThe Congress has to pass a law that doesn’t allow any historical records of abuses by ICE or any other government agencies! We should never hide from our past wrongdoings! For now, can the ACLU stop them via thei courts from destroying these records?

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