ICE Continues to Ignore FOIA Request for Records on Enforcement Actions Outside the Scope of Priorities

January 12, 2022

Immigration advocacy groups filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit Tuesday against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requesting ICE’s internal records on preapproval authorizations for enforcement actions against individuals who do not meet the criteria outlined in the Biden-Harris administration’s interim enforcement priorities.

The American Immigration Council, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Mijente Support Committee filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge ICE’s failure to release information in response to a FOIA request filed in September seeking copies of the authorizations and other records. Memos setting ICE’s enforcement priorities—issued on Jan. 20 and Feb. 18—required ICE officers to obtain preapproval from supervisors before taking enforcement actions against people who fell outside the Department of Homeland Security enforcement guidelines.

The lawsuit seeks to uncover what this preapproval process looked like and how ICE justified its actions internally. These records are crucial for advocates and the public to understand how ICE’s operations during the time the enforcement priorities were in effect and whether the agency adhered to the guidelines. These documents will reveal the nature of immigration enforcement in the first year of the Biden administration and provide a glimpse as to how the agency will implement the new priorities that went into effect on Nov. 29.

“These records are key to our understanding of how ICE justified deviating from its own guidelines,” said Raul Pinto, senior attorney at the American Immigration Council. “The information also can help see who ICE is targeting for arrest under the guidelines that went into effect on November 29.”

“We know that ICE agents arrested and deported immigrants who did not fall under DHS’s own enforcement priorities,” said Lena Graber, senior staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “Now ICE is refusing to provide the internal records, and we are taking them to court."

“These records will help advocates see how ICE is going interpret the new guidance on enforcement,” said Jacinta Gonzalez, senior campaign organizer at Mijente Support Committee. “Records like these are essential for holding ICE and the Biden administration accountable for what is happening in our communities.”

A copy of the complaint is here.

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