OTG, coalition express concern over data provisions in immigration Orders

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2017 – Today, a coalition of organizations dedicated to government openness and accountability, privacy, human rights, civil rights, and immigrant rights wrote to the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to urge them to address concerns stemming from recent executive actions on immigration and refugees. Specifically, the groups noted: “The recent Executive Orders on immigration and their implementation memos raise substantial concerns about privacy protection and government accountability. Public data allows the public to hold its government accountable – but that is only possible if government information is released in a complete, consistent, unbiased, and open manner.”

The implementation memos indicate that the information provisions included in the Executive Orders are being executed in a manner that is unlawful or inconsistent with federal information quality guidelines and privacy protections. 

The Executive Orders call for the collection and dissemination of personal information that selectively targets immigrant and foreign national populations, and reverses decades-old policy that provides certain Privacy Act protections to those individuals. The coalition opposes these Privacy Act exclusions, which are being implemented without consideration of laws designed to protect individuals’ privacy, including required records notices and privacy impact assessments. The coalition calls on the agencies to rescind these provisions.

The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security must modify the implementation of the Executive Orders as outlined in the coalition letter essential to ensure that the collection, dissemination, and disposition of information is carried out in accordance with the law and consistent with the tenets of government openness and accountability. Failure to comply with these legal requirements heightens the risk of federal agencies improperly disclosing personal information of citizens and immigrants, including students, asylum seekers, victims of gender-based abuse, foreign workers, and DACA recipients.

Further, on March 20, ICE issued its first weekly report on so-called immigration detainer requests the agency says were refused by non-federal law enforcement agencies. Such requests are sent by ICE to local police agencies to hold a person in jail for an additional 48 hours, to give federal officials extra time to decide whether to pick them up to face immigration charges. The report underscores that the implementation of the data provisions in the Executive Orders is being carried out in a limited and selective manner. The information released by ICE, for example, is being used to publicly target cities and counties that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities; at the same time, ICE is withholding other more comprehensive information that the agency had previously released in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Read the letter here