ICE May Soon Be Able To Destroy Records Of Immigrant Detainee Sexual Abuse And Death

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known by the acronym ICE, have approached the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), seeking an approval for their timetable in which they can destroy records in relation to their detention operations.

NARA is an independent agency of the United States government whose main responsibility is preserving and documenting government and historical records, as well as increasing public access to documents of which the National Archives are comprised. On this particular occasion, however, ICE isn’t asking NARA for advice about matters of record-keeping efficiency, but rather for approval to erase a long documented history of human rights and constitutional abuse.

If Trump and his crew have their way, the sheer amount of immigrants in detention is going to increase exponentially, while the conditions of the locations where detainees are housed will get worse. So it is important that these records are kept available, but what exactly is the paper trail that ICE is trying to cover up?

Many organizations and advocates have been decrying and trying to draw attention to the issue of abuse of basic human rights in the detention system for years and it turns out they have more than just a strong case. ICE has requested permission from NARA to routinely destroy official records from 11 different categories, mainly consisting of those that offer proof of the mistreatment endured by detainees, such as records related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and, most importantly, the deaths of people in ICE custody. The other records ICE are campaigning to dispose of on a relatively frequent basis are regular detention monitoring reports, logs about detainees in ICE facilities and communications from the public reporting detention abuses.

What is even more disturbing is it looks like NARA is going to approve ICE’s request and their reasons for doing so are simply horrendous. Through the eyes of NARA, records relating to cases of sexual assault and even death of detainees “do not document significant actions of Federal officials,” despite the fact that there have been 10 deaths in immigration detention in the past 10 months. When it comes to cases of sexual assault, Nara claims the “information is highly sensitive and does not warrant retention.”

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If ICE gets their way, which is more than likely, their plan is to be able to destroy sexual assault and death records after 20 years and reports about solitary confinement after only three years, removing their criminal paper trail completely from the public eye over time.


Featured image via Anthony Devlin/Getty Images