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Should ICE Destroy Records About Sexual Assaults, Deaths?

by Countable | 8.30.17

What’s the story?

In July, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) published a notice stating that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was seeking permission to destroy "records related to detainees, including incidents of sexual abuse and assault, escapes, deaths while in agency custody, telephone rates charged to detainees, alternatives to detention, logs and reports on status of detainees and detention facilities, and location and segregation of detainees."

ICE, according to the ACLU, has "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."

Why does it matter?

Various news outlets, from various political viewpoints, have reported on the controversies, violations and abuses by ICE officials through the years. As the ACLU wrote, "Many of the records that ICE proposes for destruction offer proof of the mistreatment endured by people in detention."

There have been 10 confirmed deaths in ICE custody for the fiscal year ending on September 30. In addition, according to Homeland Security data reviewed by New York University researchers, 150 people have died in ICE custody between 2003 and 2015.

NARA has provisionally approved ICE’s request. They say that in the cases of sexual assault and death, for example, the records "do not document significant actions of Federal officials."

Furthermore, NARA said that the information contained in the sexual assault files is "is highly sensitive and does not warrant retention."

ICE was founded in 2003, so it could begin destroying records related to death and sexual assault as soon as 2023. Records pertaining to solitary confinement could be destroyed starting in 2020, but depending on how you interpret the language in ICE’s proposal ICE could potentially start destroying these records as early as this year.

The ACLU is urging NARA to rethink its approval. "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."

What do you think?

Is NARA correct in that sexual assault "information is highly sensitive and does not warrant retention"? Or does the ACLU have a point that ICE needs to leave a paper trail and keep its operations in the public eye? Hit the Take Action button, tell your reps, then comment below. We promise not to purge your comments from the public record.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(167)
  • Luis
    08/30/2017
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    Why would destroying these records ever be a good idea? It's erasing the past leaving us with less information to do better in the future.

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  • BeStrong
    08/30/2017
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    Any other law enforcement entity Must keep records of rape and murder into perpetuity. Why should ICE not be held to the same standard. Digitize those records (electronic content management) in a closed environment and maintain them.

    Like (58)
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  • Tracy
    08/30/2017
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    No. Electronic storage is cheap and easy. Government should not be permitted to hide its errors and inattention to human needs and suffering. These documents are possibly evidence in 1983 claims against the government for deliberate indifference. This evidence needs to be preserved so we can learn from past mistakes. We need more transparency, not less.

    Like (46)
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  • Deirdre
    08/30/2017
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    This is horrible. The ice police will have no one to police them. This is opening Pandora's box. Human rights in America soon will be gone for all people

    Like (33)
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  • Rob
    08/30/2017
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    This is the first step towards the police state. The government is accountable to the people! All records are public records and should not be destroyed.

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  • Kevin n
    08/30/2017
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    I think if ICE destroy such documents that have critical information from the public eye is wrong. That's why we called "records" in order to keep track of the people that is considered a threat to society.

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  • OWorthyFool
    08/30/2017
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    We must not allow ICE to destroy their records. It is utterly corrupt to hide the wrongdoings committed by the organization, and denies the possibility of justice.

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  • Susan
    08/30/2017
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    NO!!!! These records are needed for future prosecutions if the perpetuators of these crimes are caught

    Like (13)
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  • Ollie32
    08/30/2017
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    No they should not be destroyed. Digital technology allows for these records to be kept at least for 50 years minimum!! Even better STOP the abuse !!

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  • Meganne
    08/30/2017
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    This sounds like corruption and smacks of cover up.

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  • Abbi
    08/30/2017
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    Why? Because ICE agents wanna rape a detainee with out a pesky investigation? No they should not! Destroying records is the same destroying evidence and anyone caught doing that should be charged by the fullest extent allowed by law!

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  • Ticktock
    08/30/2017
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    This sounds like something this Administration and ICE would propose. The records are of crimes committed against people that literally have no protection. They are the victims that all criminals want: they are alone, defenseless, isolated and they have no one to stand for them. They are perfect food for a predator. This Administration has move these people to inaccessible, isolated location, moved them frequently and have limited their access to any form of communication with legal representation. Now ICE wants to destroy records, the only testimony that these people were there and abused. Sounds like Nazi Germany and the death camps. With no written evidence there is no crime just allegations.

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  • Rebecca
    08/30/2017
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    Absolutely not.

    Like (9)
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  • 406bobby
    08/30/2017
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    Do not destroy these documents

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  • Janie
    08/30/2017
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    Ummm, no

    Like (8)
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  • Adam
    08/30/2017
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    Records of this type should never be destroyed.

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  • Paul
    08/30/2017
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    No. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and the only people who want to stymie that are diseased.

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  • Batsheva
    08/30/2017
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    Please make sure that the paper trail will not be destroyed. 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."

    Like (7)
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  • Jerry
    08/30/2017
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    How can we even ask that question? To even ask paints a sorry picture of our nation.

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  • Jerise
    08/30/2017
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    They MUST be joking, mustn't they?? Please do not allow the destruction of public records holding our public service administrators accountable for their behavior while responsible for so many people's lives.

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