In a stunning decision, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has granted ICE authorities temporary permission to begin destroying detainee records that document human rights violations, sexual abuse, and even deaths while in federal custody after a period of 20 years. The proposal is open for public comment until September 15.
NARA spokesperson Laura Sheehan stated that the agency recommended approving ICE’s request because they felt that the files were not permanently valuable records and the legal rights of the victims involved should not be expected to continue indefinitely. Said Sheehan:
These files do not meet our appraisal criteria for permanently valuable records. The legal rights of individuals documented by these records do not continue indefinitely, and the records do not document significant actions of Federal officials that are not captured elsewhere.
Since when do a human being’s legal rights against being abused or murdered while under federal supervision have a statute of limitations? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that we were still prosecuting Nazi guards for civil rights violations committed during WWII?
How are the men, women and children currently being held in federal detention centers for committing no crime other than entering our country to try to create a better life for their families not worthy of the same basic human rights the rest of us are?
According to ACLU attorney Victoria Lopez, ICE’s request is extremely troubling. States Lopez:
Even 20 years is far too short for keeping the record of a death or sexual assault of an individual in government custody. 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 life-threatening circumstances and denied their most basic rights. ICE shouldn’t be allowed to purge important records and keep its operations out of the public eye.
The ACLU has set up a public comment form via their website and is urging people to sign the document asking NARA to reverse their decision prior to the September 15 deadline.