The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is suing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the release of records pertaining to an “immigration update” given at a law enforcement association conference earlier this year.
“Now, more than ever, it is important to enforce the public’s right to access information about their government under FOIA,” said staff attorney at ACLUM, Dan McFadden.
In February, ICE’s Acting Deputy Director Matthew Albence gave the update at the National Sheriffs’ Association winter conference. According to the lawsuit, Albence’s presentation was labeled as an “immigration update”.
However, the ACLUM became aware of the presentation after the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office tweeted a photo of Albence delivering the update.
Following the tweet, ACLUM filed a FOIA request with ICE on February 22, asking for audio, recordings, PowerPoint slides, and any other prepared remarks accompanying his presentation. On March 15, ICE responded to the request asking for a 10-day extension to complete the request.
At the federal level, FOIA statute requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 business days. However, that doesn’t mean agencies have to release records within that time frame. The issue at hand lies with ICE’s failure to provide any updates following the request for extension.
“We sued because the statutory deadline for a substantive determination has elapsed, and it is important for the public to understand the guidance that ICE is providing to state and local law enforcement officer,” said McFadden.
According to the NSA, they do not record or livestream presentations at their conferences. Therefore, the only records of Albence’s presentation lie with ICE. In addition to the records, the ACLUM seeks attorney fees and no additional charges for producing the requested records.
“Officials in the Trump administration routinely make outrageous misstatements of fact. The only way for the public to ascertain the true state of affairs is to gather the underlying documentation,” added McFadden.
ICE is housed under the Department of Homeland Security, which has seen a flood of requests following the election of President Donald Trump. According to MuckRock data, ICE has completed 123 requests out of the 399 filed on the site. Additionally, Customs and Border Patrol, which is also under DHS, has only completed 40 of 288 filed requests on MuckRock.
The full lawsuit is embedded below.
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Image via ICE Flickr