Advocates File Suit Against DHS for Refusal to Disclose Records on Enforcement Program

March 12, 2012

Washington D.C. - Last week, an alliance of national immigration advocacy organizations filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), seeking to compel the release of documents concerning the agency’s Criminal Alien Program (CAP).

Seeking greater transparency, the American Immigration Council (AIC) and the Connecticut chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) brought the suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires federal agencies to produce responsive, non-exempt records upon request. For years, the public has been unable to scrutinize CAP because DHS has shrouded the program in secrecy. AIC and AILA Connecticut requested a variety of documents related to CAP last year, but DHS has not produced a single one.

CAP is the workhorse of the federal immigration enforcement system. Under CAP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are stationed in prisons and jails, visit other detention facilities, and initiate deportation proceedings against people convicted of criminal offenses. However, CAP also sweeps up individuals who have been arrested but never convicted of any crime. And while DHS is still rolling out Secure Communities, CAP — a more far-reaching program — has been operational for years. Over the past five years alone, CAP has led to the arrest of more than a million people, and the program was implicated in approximately half of all removal proceedings in FY 2009.

“Although CAP supposedly targets the worst criminal offenders, the limited information we have shows that this is not always the case,” according to Melissa Crow, Director of AIC’s Legal Action Center. “Like Secure Communities, this insidious program seems to target individuals with little or no criminal history for deportation and to incentivize pretextual stops and racial profiling.”

“CAP is the elephant in the room when it comes to immigration enforcement,” said Caitlin Bellis, a law student intern at the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic of Yale Law School, which represents AIC and AILA, together with co-counsel at AIC. “The American people have a right to know how ICE is operating in their communities.”

"Like any other federal agency, ICE is subject to FOIA and should not be permitted to avoid its legal obligation to disclose relevant records" said Rita Provatas, Chair, AILA Connecticut Chapter. "We hope this information will enable us to determine how CAP is affecting immigrants in Connecticut and elsewhere."

The case is American Immigration Council, et al., v. Department of Homeland Security, No. 3:12-cv-00355-WWE (D. Conn. filed Mar. 8, 2012).


For more information, contact Wendy Sefsaf at [email protected] or 202-507-7524

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