the practice of removing non-citizens for non-violent, non-serious offenses;
the number of families torn apart as parents are deported and separated from their US citizen children.
In each of these reports, analysis of the raw data gained through FOIA requests provided the nuance and details that are lacking in officially released statistics, Human Rights Watch has found.
Human Rights Watch sought anonymized, disaggregated data on each person apprehended by ICE since 2012. The data would shine a light on both who has been apprehended, detained and deported, and how ICE has carried out these arrests, detentions, and removals. None of the items requested present a burden for ICE to produce as every variable, or item, requested is recorded by ICE in its databases.
Human Rights Watch filed its initial FOIA request with ICE in October 2017. ICE failed to acknowledge receipt of the request within the mandated 30-day time frame. It ultimately sent a letter acknowledging receipt in December 2017, but did not provide a determination or other response to the request. Since then, ICE has failed to provide Human Rights Watch with any additional response.
Human Rights Watch filed letters demanding a substantive response from ICE in April and September 2018, but received no response. ICE changed the FOIA request status in its online records to “Closed” on September 13, 2018, without providing Human Rights Watch any notification or reasoning.
Human Rights Watch has sought greater transparency from ICE in other areas, particularly with regard to deaths in detention. On November 27, 2018, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to both houses of Congress urging them to reject any increase in appropriations that will exacerbate serious rights violations in the existing immigration enforcement system. Human Rights Watch urges members of Congress to put forward appropriations that will enhance transparency, due process, accountability, and fair treatment of everyone subject to deportation proceedings.
Human Rights Watch has also cited numerous abuses by ICE, such as its failure to abide by reporting requirements on deaths in detention or its failure to make a public list of detention facilities, as it has urged Congress to cut funds for enforcement and detention operations and require stronger oversight mechanisms to hold DHS accountable.
“The ongoing failure of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security to provide data that we know they have is sadly consistent with its lack of transparency on many fronts,” Root said. “The agency should already be releasing this data to the public, and it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to force disclosure.”