ICE way behind on processing FOIA requests, federal case in Denver shows

Westword (Denver): A local civil rights organization has taken Immigration and Customs Enforcement to federal court for failing to fulfill open records requests in a timely manner. The case against ICE, which is being heard in Denver and has been brought forward by the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, centers around the agency’s processing of Freedom of Information Act requests.

The case is offering a rare glimpse into how ICE, a growing and largely secretive government bureaucracy, handles open records requests — a relatively routine process that’s predicated on government transparency.

According to ICE’s own policies, it is supposed to respond to FOIA requests within twenty business days of submission. CREEC, a highly regarded civil rights organization whose co-founders are being honored by the ACLU of Colorado on September 27 with lifetime recognition awards, filed nine FOIA requests to ICE last August and September. The FOIA requests were part of an initiative at CREEC that it calls the Immigration Detention Accountability Project, with a wider mission of investigating the treatment (and mistreatment) of immigrant detainees, particularly detainees who have disabilities and mental health issues. The FOIA requests from CREEC also ask for death reports for detainees who have died in detention, reports of sexual assaults at a dentention facility in California, and details about standards and procedures for facilities across the nation, including Colorado’s immigrant detention center in Aurora, which ICE has contracted out to the private prison company GEO Group.

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