More data on federal immigration detention centers could become available if a recently filed lawsuit is successful. Late last month, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, asking for greater access to such pieces of information as facilities' inspection reports and the demographic statistics of immigrants detained by ICE.
Supporters of immigration rights say that a change in information-sharing protocol would allow outside groups to look for abuses in the immigration detention system. Some activists have claimed that immigrants labeled as "low-priority" are still being deported. This activity would run counter to the current immigration policy of focusing deportation efforts on those immigrants with criminal records and those who have previously been removed from the country.
There are legal roadblocks to having such data released, however. Federal agencies and the courts have relied on a doctrine called "mosaic theory" to justify withholding some information from the public. The doctrine argues that while individual pieces of data may not compromise national security, the release of large swaths of data could generate problems.
According to one of the directors at the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the lawsuit follows years of negotiations with ICE officials over the release of data on detainees. ICE declined to comment on the case.
Immigrants who are detained do have options to fight removal. There are grounds on which one can seek to remain in the U.S., and if those are unsuccessful, an appeal can be filed. Because deportation can split families and separate friends, it is important that immigrants know their rights if they become subject to a deportation proceeding.
Source: ABC News, "Why We Don't Know More About Immigration Detention," Ted Hesson, Oct. 25, 2012