Council Sues ICE for Records on Enforcement Actions Against People Who Didn’t Meet Guidelines


The American Immigration Council, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Mijente Support Committee filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking records that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers were required to submit to supervisors when they sought to arrest individuals who did not meet the enforcement priorities in effect from February 18 until November 29.

On January 20, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo that outlined three categories of individuals it deemed as priorities for enforcement actions. A second memorandum, issued on February 18, provided operational details about the agency’s enforcement priorities and also directed ICE officers to request preapproval every time they sought to arrest individuals who did not meet the enforcement priorities outlined in the memos.

ICE failed to release information in response to a FOIA request filed in September seeking copies of these authorizations and data associated with these approvals, including:

  1. Records created by the agency to assist ICE officers follow the preapproval process needed to take enforcement actions against people who fall outside the DHS enforcement guidelines.
  2. Copies of the requests submitted by officers to supervisors for approval to take enforcement actions against individuals who did not meet the enforcement priorities in place at that time.
  3. Data kept by ICE relating to these requests.

These documents are key to the public’s understanding of how ICE officers implemented the announced enforcement priorities during the time they were in effect. The information also should provide hints of how ICE officers will interpret the guidelines that went into effect on November 29, which are similar in scope but explicitly give officers more ample discretion.

Disclosure of these record arms the public with much-needed oversight over the agency’s actions to ensure compliance with the guidelines, as well as uniformity in their application across all the agency’s field offices.

This lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Follow this case:

  • This FOIA requests effort seeks records on ICE reports about its enforcement activities, whether the people arrested by ICE fit into the DHS’s enforcement priorities, and information about instances when officers pursued enforcement actions against individuals who would not be considered priorities for immigration enforcement.

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