Deleted ICE Documents on “Secure Communities” Program


PDF portfolio: Secure Communities documents
PDF portfolio: Secure Communities statistics
PDF portfolio: Secure Communities: memorandums of agreement

 

On October 3, 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pulled down all the documents it had posted in the FOIA section of its website, replacing them with the notice:

“The ICE FOIA library is temporarily unavailable while it undergoes review.”

The timing of the takedown made some observers (including me) suspect that it was due to an article that had appeared earlier that day. Splinter reported that ICE’s FOIA section contained a spreadsheet with the names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, and other personal identifying information (PII) of some people who called the recently established VOICE hotline, as well as some of the subjects of those calls. (The VOICE line was ostensibly meant to provide services to victims of crimes committed by “removable aliens,” but in reality it was often used to rat out people just for being undocumented.)

That same day, Robert Vale noticed that ICE pulled down all documents from the “Library” and “Proactive Releases” pages on the FOIA section of its website. I was hoping that ICE would just doublecheck all documents for PII, then repost everything. I was hoping they wouldn’t use this as an excuse to delete documents they wish they hadn’t posted. Sure.

By October 15, the documents had reappeared. ICE restored hundreds of files, including material on a number of sensitive topics… except for one.

Three sections of the Library page are now missing:

The Proactive Disclosures page overlaps largely with the Library. Before the scrub, it contained two sections on Secure Communities, which contained the same documents as the corresponding sections in the Library:

 

Using the handy-dandy Wayback Machine, I retrieved the 77 documents that had been scrubbed, then put them into PDF portfolios corresponding to the three missing sections (above).

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All the documents have to do with ICE’s Secure Communities program, which it describes thusly:

Secure Communities is a simple and common sense way to carry out ICE’s enforcement priorities for those aliens detained in the custody of another law enforcement agency (LEA). It uses a federal information-sharing partnership between DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that helps to identify in-custody aliens without imposing new or additional requirements on state and local law enforcement. For decades, local jurisdictions have shared the fingerprints of individuals arrested and/or booked into custody with the FBI to see if those individuals have a criminal record and outstanding warrants. Under Secure Communities, the FBI automatically sends the fingerprints to DHS to check against its immigration databases. If these checks reveal that an individual is unlawfully present in the United States or otherwise removable, ICE takes enforcement action – prioritizing the removal of individuals who present the most significant threats to public safety as determined by the severity of their crime, their criminal history, and risk to public safety – as well as those who have violated the nation’s immigration laws.

For a different take on the Secure Community program, see this fact sheet from the American Immigration Council. Among several concerns:

ICE has stated that it “prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety, repeat immigration violators,” and “the most dangerous and violent offenders.” However, the program has not focused exclusively on convicted criminals, dangerous and violent offenders, or threats to public safety and national security….

There is a concern that police officers working in areas that have Secure Communities in their local jails may have an incentive, or at least the ability, to make arrests based on race or ethnicity, or to make pretextual arrests of persons they suspect to be in violation of immigration laws, in order to have them run through immigration databases once they are jailed….

These Secure Communities documents that ICE deleted do not contain any personally identifying information. They’re budgets, statistics, agreements, a handbook, a “strategic plan,” talking points, and so on. Absolutely nothing about any individuals.


Besides pulling down the 77 documents, ICE also deleted an important bit of accompanying text. ICE originally entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with states regarding state, county, and city participation in the program. But:

ICE determined that ICE doesn’t need these agreements and that states can’t opt out of this program.

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