TRAC Sues ICE on Withholding Data on Secure Communities Program
(08 Jun 2017) The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) has filed yet another suit in federal court today under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) charging Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with unlawfully withholding records on deportations. The new suit follows one filed on May 9. Both actions concern aspects of ICE's unusually broad immigration control efforts and its sometimes contentious interaction with local law enforcement agencies.

The records involved in this suit track ICE deportations under its Secure Communities Program. Under Executive Order 13768 signed by President Trump on January 25, 2017, Secure Communities was reinstated and replaced the Priority Enforcement Program that President Obama had initiated. Under President Trump, the agency announced that Secure Communities and the issuance of ICE detainers were to be cornerstones of its immigration enforcement strategy. The agency further threatened local jurisdictions with the withholding of federal funds if they did not cooperate with this program.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Susan B. Long and David Burnham, co-directors of TRAC, a non-partisan research data center at Syracuse University's Newhouse and Whitman Schools. For years, in response to its regular requests for updated agency records, TRAC had received detailed case-by-case data on each ICE deportation under Secure Communities. In January of this year, ICE began refusing to disclose much of the information produced in its previous responses to TRAC's FOIA requests.

Because of ICE's refusal to release these and other details on actual deportations, the government has prevented TRAC from providing the public with vital up-to-date information on its enforcement activities, and the role Secure Communities actually plays. Among the information now being withheld, for example, is information on whether deportations actually result from its use of detainers under Secure Communities, on how and when ICE took individuals into custody, and on the full details for any criminal history for those who were deported.

Long and Burnham are represented in the suit on a pro bono basis by attorneys Sean Sherman and Scott Nelson of the Public Citizen Litigation Group.

For more details on this matter, including the full text of TRAC's complaint, see:

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