• 15 Sep 2017 4:29 PM
    Message # 5262939
    Jeremy Brett (Administrator)

    Hello, all! I'd like to call to your attention a recent issue involving certain sets of records from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and their disposition by NARA. Below is an adaptation of a blog post I wrote for the Concerned Archivists Alliance, and I think the issue is worth discussing.

    ICE has recently sought approval from the National Archives and Records Administration to destroy records documenting deaths and sexual assaults of individuals in its custody after a period of 20 years. ICE has asked for permission to begin routinely destroying 11 kinds of records, including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody. Other records subject to destruction include alternatives to detention programs; regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities and communications from the public reporting detention abuses. ICE proposed various timelines for the destruction of these records ranging from 20 years for sexual assault and death records to three years for reports about solitary confinement. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, NARA has given preiminary approval to ICE’s proposal and its explanations for doing so are, to say the least, troubling.

    As the ACLU reports, “In cases of sexual assault and death, for example, NARA states that these records “do not document significant actions of Federal officials.” It’s hard to believe that the actions of a federal official are not significant in the death or sexual assault of an individual who is in federal immigration custody. NARA also posited that in cases of sexual assault, that the “information is highly sensitive and does not warrant retention.” This is indeed a horrible statement for any government agency to make – the physical, mental, and emotional abuse of human beings by government employees is the very definition of a significant action, that deserves documentation and accountability.

    The recent anti-immigration feeling in the United States, enabled and exacerbated by Donald Trump, his advisers, and his media surrogates, makes this decision by ICE even more problematic. If the Trump administration has its way, the number of immigrants in detention will increase, detention conditions will deteriorate further and more people will be subjected to abuse and denied basic rights. Given Trump’s intent to increase the size, scope, authority, and impact of ICE, it becomes intensely disturbing that ICE is apparently seeking to reduce its transparency, its accountability, and evidence of its mistreatment of immigrants, by obscuring the documentary record.

    The types of records that ICE is proposing to destroy after 20 years are EXACTLY the kinds of records that need to be retained for long periods of time, if not permanently. NARA, I believe, is being derelict in its duty as the custodial agency for federal records by provisionally granting ICE’s request. As Splinter News reports, this decision raises questions about whose history is worthy of permanent preservation at NARA. The decision comes at a time when ICE has stopped sharing data with researchers and limited the information available to attorneys, even as the agency is increasing its presence and authority.

    Lives are at risk through ICE abuses and the xenophobia and hatred being stoked by the Trump Administration. There have been 10 confirmed deaths of people in ICE custody during this fiscal year. The records related to these in-custody death investigations are not classified as “permanent.” An additional 150 people died in ICE’s custody between 2003 and 2015, according to Homeland Security data obtained by researchers at New York University. NARA’s provisional decision that these deaths apparently do not merit a permanent place in the American documentary record is shortsighted and offensive.

    I urge all concerned archivists to maintain vigilance in the ongoing resistance against this oppressive and incompetent administration, which uses records as only one of the many weapons in its arsenal against freedom, justice, and human dignity. I also encourage those who would like to take action by submitting comments to NARA:

    Here is a link to the records schedule (PDF).

    Here are the instructions for submitting comments.

    -Jeremy Brett

  • 17 Sep 2017 6:42 PM
    Reply # 5265316 on 5262939

    for those who would like some more information about the ICE request here are some links. the first 3 links will take you to the Concerned Archivists blog where Brad Houston (a records manager and archivist) looks at the issue from the records management pov

    the next two articles one from the San Diego Union-Tribune and the other from The Nation.




    Immigration officials have asked permission to destroy records of sexual

    abuse, death and solitary confinement, among others, in detention

    facilities.Immigration and Customs Enforcement would get rid of sexual

    abuse and death in custody records after 20 years and solitary confinement

    records after three years. Advocates and government watchdog groups are

    worried that eradication of such records would make it more difficult to

    know what conditions are like inside immigration detention facilities,

    which are often owned and operated by private prison companies that have

    contracts with the federal government.


    Some ICE records, however, will be maintained by NARA in perpetuity.

    Laurence Brewer, chief records officer for the US government, explained to

    me in an e-mail that federal records are kept permanently for one of three

    possible reasons: They document (1) the rights of citizens, (2) the actions

    of federal officials essential to understanding and evaluating federal

    actions, or (3) “the national experience.” Examples of documents that NARA

    will permanently keep are ICE’s Internal Affairs Significant Misconduct

    Investigative Case Files and the Department of Homeland Security’s Civil

    Rights and Civil Liberties annual report.


    Peter Kurilecz

  • 18 Sep 2017 2:35 PM
    Reply # 5266646 on 5262939

      As a government records employee, I state no opinion on this matter. I have not worked with federal records. I will note (for informational purposes only) that the state of Texas apparently has different retention periods for the above records than have been proposed to NARA for the ICE records. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice retention schedule, the following records are classified as permanent:

    Offender Protection Investigation Summary

    Offender Protection Investigation Form

    Offender Protection Witness Statement/Report

    Offender Protection Investigation Checklist

    Sexual Abuse Investigation Checklist

    Subsequent Offender Interview

      For more information on records on inmate sexual abuse in Texas and the Safe Prisons Plan in Texas, please consult: http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/documents/cid/Safe_Prisons_PREA_Plan.pdf. For more information on offender death and/or solitary confinement records, please consult the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or the reference desk of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

    Last modified: 18 Sep 2017 2:43 PM | Jessica Tucker
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