Update 3/25/20: CREW secured a binding agreement that ICE will not destroy any records while the lawsuit is ongoing. This is a critical threshold step to ensure records of abuse and mistreatment of ICE detainees are not permanently lost. Read the stipulation here.

Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) should not be permitted to destroy crucial records documenting the abuse and mistreatment of detainees.

CREW, the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) are suing the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for approving ICE’s plan to destroy records. This decision was made without addressing significant public comments, disregarded NARA’s own policies, and failed to consider accountability and research interests in preserving the records permanently.

In December 2019, NARA approved ICE’s plan to destroy detainee records despite widespread alarm around abuse of detainees. Several categories of records, including those documenting detainee deaths, sexual assault and abuse, civil rights violations, inhumane solitary confinement practices, and violations of ICE detention standards, are set to be destroyed, with some slated for destruction as early as this year. 

NARA received over 23,000 comments, a record-breaking number for the agency, opposing the plan. Most of the comments were ignored, though NARA did make a few modest changes. Still, NARA’s decision largely allows ICE to destroy sensitive records that provide critical evidence to support current and future efforts to evaluate our immigration enforcement system. 

ICE and NARA must be held accountable for their failure to address significant public comments in their decision to destroy records that would all but erase documentation of harm to detainees. To destroy records revealing abuse, rights violations, and even deaths in detention would further obscure a system already severely lacking in oversight and transparency.

Lawsuit Documents