A county jail in Florida under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement is breaking federal law by regularly deleting its surveillance footage, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Despite knowing about the violations for months, ICE has failed to take legally required action against the facility.
Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven, Florida, is violating federal law by deleting its facility surveillance video every 90 days despite an ICE contractual requirement to retain the video for three years and open public record requests seeking the surveillance video. The facility also ignored an ICE directive instructing facilities like Glades “to retain all video surveillance data . . . until further notice.” ICE failed to report these deletions to the National Archives and Records Administration as required by law. The complaint asks NARA and ICE to require Glades to preserve surveillance video as required by federal regulations, and recover the surveillance video that was illegally deleted.
Glades is destroying video footage that could be used to substantiate reports of abuse against immigrants detained at the jail. The detention center is currently the target of multiple federal inquiries and civil rights complaints due to human rights abuses and conditions so inhumane that eight members of Congress have called on the Biden Administration to terminate ICE’s contract with the facility.
“The deletion of surveillance footage at Glades is the latest example of ICE’s appalling failure to follow and uphold critical recordkeeping laws,” said CREW Senior Counsel Nikhel Sus. “It is shameful that ICE appears to be comfortable with keeping the public in the dark about abuses taking place in one of its detention centers. ICE and NARA must intervene as legally required, and if Glades continues to break the law, ICE must terminate its contract with the center.”
“The practice of deleting footage at Glades violates federal requirements and actively obstructs key evidence that is pivotal to ensuring Glades County and ICE officials are accountable for their actions,” said Katie Blankenship, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Florida. “These problems are systemic and longstanding, and if history has proven anything, Glades County will likely continue to fail to address these issues and meet federal requirements. If that proves true, then a court must compel Glades to follow these critical protocols, and the facility must finally be shut down.”
The deletion of security footage at Glades is not the only example of ICE’s attempts to skirt recordkeeping laws. In 2019, ICE obtained permission from the National Archives to destroy years’ worth of sexual assault and death investigation records from ICE facilities across the country—a plan later blocked by a federal judge following a lawsuit filed by CREW.