Demanding ICE Provide Essential Data


January 30, 2023


August 27, 2021

January 2023 Update: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit released a decision in ACLU Immigrants’ Rts. Project v. ICE on January 26, 2023. 

The data 
requested from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in this case—information about removals, detentions, apprehensions, risk classification assessments, and bond management—is critical to understanding the U.S. immigration enforcement system and how enforcement priorities were implemented. ACLU pursued this information through a FOIA request. ICE did not provide unique identifiers necessary to link records of enforcement activity to individuals in the records it released to the ACLU. As a result, the ACLU could not analyze each person’s interactions with ICE across different datasets from the agency.  

The case also raised broader questions about ICE’s lack of transparency, and what the public should demand of a well-funded law enforcement agency that holds tens of thousands of individuals in its custody on a daily basis. 

On January 26, 2023, the Second Circuit issued a decision reversing the district court's decision. The court found that ICE could not make records that would be exempt under FOIA (A-numbers) the “key” or “code” required to access records that would not otherwise be exempt if the public didn't have the same tool to access non-exempt records. It went on to find that FOIA’s "broad disclosure policy" requires the agency to use a different code in order to afford the public non-exempt records in the same manner as they are available to the agency. In this case, the court held that Unique IDs consisting of "any combinations of numbers, letters, or symbols that are meaningless in themselves and that function only to afford access to the non-exempt records" would serve this purpose. As a result, ICE is now required to substitute A-numbers with unique identifiers so that the data can be understood by the public in the same way the agency is able to understand it.

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