FOIA Requests to Preserve Records Regarding Civil Rights Complaints and Records of Deaths and Abuse in ICE Custody

FOIA Requests to Preserve Records Regarding Civil Rights Complaints and Records of Deaths and Abuse in ICE Custody

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

In December 2019, the National Archives approved a schedule for destruction of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records which slates numerous categories of documents addressing abuses in detention to be destroyed immediately or after short periods of time and almost no records to be permanently preserved.

Why is the Destruction of ICE Records Troubling?

Though agencies are permitted to destroy certain records according to a schedule approved by the National Archives (NARA), the ICE schedule at issue has caused widespread concern because the records slated for destruction include those related to detainee deaths, complaints by detainees about medical treatment and investigations of sexual assault and abuse of detainees.

In its December 2019 response to concerns that these records will no longer be available for research; to hold ICE employees accountable; and as evidence of harm to individuals, NARA responded that the records have limited historical importance: “[m]any records that are of significant contemporary interest do not warrant permanent retention in the National Archives” and “records involving decisions of lower-level federal officials about operational matters such as segregated housing of individual detainees ([] Segregation Reports) . . . do not meet this threshold.”

Why Was this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request Filed?

The Archives suggests several times throughout their December 2019 response to concerns regarding the record destruction, that individuals interested in obtaining the records slated to be destroyed file a FOIA request for the records. If records are the subject of a FOIA request, they can’t be destroyed. The American Civil Liberties Union, National Immigrant Justice Center and the National Immigration Law Center have also filed requests for the same records.

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