ICE’s Nonexistent “Semi-annual” Reports on Facility Conditions
ICE is required to publish a semi-annual report about conditions in its detention facilities. It has issued exactly one report. In 2008. Covering the first half of 2007. For more than a decade, ICE has simply not created this mandatory report.
In 2000, one of ICE’s predecessor agencies (Immigration and Naturalization Service) created “national detention standards” for its detainment facilities. ICE has updated these standards several times, and they are supposed to be used during inspections of its facilities, which are variously run by for-profit companies such as GEO Group, by state and local law enforcement agencies, and by ICE itself.
In 2007, the head of ICE issued a directive: ICE’s Office of Detention and Removal Operations is required to create a “Semiannual Report on Compliance with ICE National Detention Standards.” This report is supposed to summarize the results of inspections of ICE’s detention facilities and provide additional ongoing info about the detainment program (management, oversight, development of standards, etc.).
This was the last such report ICE ever created.
The report itself has the word “semi-annual” in its title, and the introductory material states:
“In order to facilitate transparency of the ICE Detention Facility Inspection Program, the Assistant Secretary of ICE directed that the Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) report semi-annually on agency-wide adherence with the ICE National Detention Standards (NDS).”
“This is the first such report issued under this directive and covers the period of January through June 2007. It explains the standards that ICE uses to rate the performance of detention facilities, and shows results for the six months covered by this report. ICE will release a new report semiannually covering the review and remediation activities, if any, for the respective time period. These semi-annual reports will also be posted on the ICE website at http://www.ice.gov.”
Page 11 discusses all the important things that will be included in “the next semi-annual report”:
“Since this is the first semi-annual report, facility inspection results are reported without discussion of remediation and corrective action details. The next semi-annual report will include additional detail on the results of the Detention Facility Inspection program will be provided along with discussion of the implementation of the Contract Compliance Oversight program, development of the performance-based National Detention Standards and an update on the reworking of the Detention Management Control Program.”
Despite the fact that ICE continues to perform 50+ inspections per year (via a contractor), no other report has ever appeared.
In May 2018, ICE started posting all summaries of inspection facilities here. This is a nice dose of transparency done under immense pressure, but the mandatory semi-annual reports pulling together all of this information from 50+ individual reports — with additional info on the management and oversight of the detention program — still don’t exist. And what about the time from July 2007 to April 2018? It’s largely a black box. Due to receiving multiple FOIA requests, ICE has posted selected inspection reports from 2007-2012, and one inspection from 2016, but zero from 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and early 2018. And, again, there are no semi-annual reports for all that time.
When I first saw that only the report covering Jan-June 2007 was posted, I naively figured that ICE must still be creating those reports internally but withholding them from public release. So I filed a FOIA request for the three most recent reports.
Two months later, I was told that no responsive records had been found. The letter stated that these reports are “no longer produced by ICE.”
So then I emailed ICE’s public affairs office, doublechecking that only one “semi-annual” report was ever created and asking why this was allowed to happen. Had the reports been officially cancelled? I received a one-sentence response from ICE’s Press Secretary: “We don’t have anything for you beyond the FOIA response you received.”
So I filed another FOIA request, this time for the directive that ordered the semi-annual reports (and any directive that might have ended them). ICE responded that they didn’t find any responsive records.
Remember, the first and only report says: “the Assistant Secretary of ICE directed that the Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) report semi-annually on agency-wide adherence with the ICE National Detention Standards (NDS).” And: “This is the first such report issued under this directive…”
But ICE can’t locate a directive issued by its Assistant Secretary (a/k/a the Director). Here’s the letter.
So, no one at Homeland Security HQ noticed that its most controversial agency hasn’t been issuing a mandatory semi-annual report about conditions for detainees for over a decade? No one on the House or Senate Committees on Homeland Security has noticed this since 2008? Homeland Security Inspector General, where you at?