PDF: ICE Request for Records Disposition Authority

PDF: National Archives appraisal of ICE request

Link: Notice in the Federal Register

UPDATE [June 28, 2018]

The head of the National Archives has posted an update about the situation on his blog. It adds almost nothing new to the update I posted more than three weeks ago (below). The upshot is that NARA will be asking ICE to make changes to its proposed records-destruction schedule, but those changes aren't finalized yet.

The one piece of new info is that NARA is also going back and reviewing ALL of ICE's records schedules involving deaths and assaults of detainees. That's a very welcome development.


UPDATE [June 3, 2018]

Because there's no way to see the status of ICE's proposal (or any records disposition proposal) online, I asked the Director of the Records Management Operations Program at NARA (the National Archives) for an update. On June 1, she wrote:

No final action has been taken on this schedule. NARA appraisal staff have reviewed the comments received, and held several meetings with ICE records management and program staff regarding the records being scheduled.

Proposed changes to the schedule are being reviewed internally by NARA stakeholders for internal concurrence, after which NARA will inform ICE of the required changes. NARA will then publish a follow-up Federal Register notice responding to the public comments we received. This notice will be open for public comment for 15 days from the date of publication.

So the big news here is that everyone's comments and concern have made a difference: NARA is going to require that ICE change its proposal. At this point NARA is figuring out exactly what those changes will be. Once they decide, they'll let the public know, and we'll have another chance to comment. (The comment period will be a paltry 15 days, so I'll try to catch NARA's notice as soon as it comes out.)

If you like what I'm doing, please support my efforts 
to preserve and post important documents

UPDATE [Aug 30, 2017]

For purposes of comparison: The Defense Department keeps its records about incidents of sexual assault for 50 and 60 years (depending on the type of document). ICE wants to destroy theirs in 20. The Pentagon keeps its records about the rates/statistics of sexual assault permanently. Again, ICE wants to pulp their equivalent records after 20 years. 

The Defense Dept keeps its records about individual suicides for 75 years, but ICE wants to destroy all death-related documents in 20 years. Also keep in mind that the number of deaths in ICE custody is a fraction of non-combat deaths in the military. If the Pentagon can keep all those records for 75 years, ICE can keep theirs.


UPDATE [Aug 30, 2017]

There might still be time for the public (i.e., you) to comment to the National Archives on ICE's proposal. In his article at Splinter, Jorge Rivas reported that we have until SEPTEMBER 7, 2017, to comment. He told me that this was the date given to him by a spokesperson for the National Archives. I had been told August 28 by someone else at the Archives, which always seemed too soon. Instructions for commenting are below.


UPDATE [Aug 29, 2017]

This story has been picked up by the ACLU and Jorge Rivas at Splinter.


The Original Article [Aug 23, 2017]

>>> When a federal agency wants to change its schedule for preserving/destroying documents, it has to get permission from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has asked for permission to destroy all its documents about the deaths of detained immigrants in custody 20 years after a case is "closed." (Deaths in ICE custody are almost always investigated by ICE itself. A minority are investigated by the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General. [report])

Similarly, ICE wants to destroy all its documents about sexual assaults of detained immigrants in custody. The time frame is 20 years after a case is "closed."  (Again, ICE almost always investigates itself in these cases. The Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General investigates around 1% of complaints/reports. [article])  NARA argues that this information is "sensitive," implying that documents containing the identities of victims and the accused should not be kept indefinitely. ICE itself did not offer this (or any) justification.

As part of the process, NARA reviewed ICE's plan and offered its appraisal, giving the green light to the agency's plan. So, as it stands now, ICE has the tentative go-ahead.

Bear in mind that ICE was created in 2003, so it's already been around for 14 years. Under this plan, it could destroy closed cases from its first year of operation in six years, then every year thereafter on a rolling basis.

But NARA's decision is not final at this point. There's a comment period for the public to weigh in. NARA has an odd system for determining deadlines for public comment, so although some people can comment as late as September 14, I've been told that the deadline for comments from the general public is this Monday, August 28, 2017.

Send your comments here: <request.schedule@nara.gov>.

Indicate that you're commenting in reference to schedule #DAA-0567-2015-0013.

(Based on internal NARA emails, it seems that the comments that are given the most weight are those that address the specific documents at issue, rather than a general argument of "the agency shouldn't be allowed to destroy any documents." Be sure to read the PDFs I've posted above - which are not otherwise online - before commenting.)

But wait, there's more...

In addition to the documents about deaths and sexual assaults in custody, ICE has asked for permission (and tentatively received it) to destroy nine other types of documents, including:

+ Daily logs showing who is in custody on any given day (destroy after 7 years)

+ Detainee escapes (destroy after 7 years)

+ "Communication records in any form (email, phone, etc.) and related documentation
from individuals in ICE custody, the public, non-governmental organizations, faithbased
organizations, academic institutions, attorneys, and advocacy groups" (destroy after 5 years)

These shorter periods mean that if ICE gets permission for this schedule, they could immediately destroy their daily detainee logs from 2003-2010, as well as other records.