National Archives Updates Progress on ICE Records Disposition

This post has been crossposted from the AOTUS Blog.

The proposed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records schedule for records related to detainees held in ICE detention facilities (DAA-0567-2015-0013) has received significant attention in the media and by concerned individuals. Because of the ongoing interest in this schedule, NARA is providing this update on the status of the review.  The draft schedule includes files documenting cases of sexual abuse and assault of detainees, as well as detainee death investigation files. This schedule was proposed to NARA in October 2015 and posted to the Federal Register on July 14, 2017. The proposed schedule was a new request for disposition authority for unscheduled records, not a request to revise an existing records schedule.

All federal agencies propose series of records to NARA for review by NARA staff and approval by the Archivist of the United States. NARA considers each submission, or records schedule, carefully, typically meeting with agency subject matter experts, before recommending which records created are permanent and which are temporary. This determination is made by NARA through the records schedule review process. During this review, NARA determines whether records warrant preservation in the National Archives (permanent retention) and whether records lack permanent historical or other research value (temporary retention) in accordance with NARA’s appraisal policy.

NARA also reviews the retention periods proposed for temporary records to ensure the period protects the legal rights of the Government and private parties. Identified permanent records will be transferred to NARA and temporary records may be legally destroyed by agencies after a specified period of time. The opportunity for public input is mandated by law through the Federal register and is integral to the scheduling and appraisal process.

As part of the regular process of reviewing the submission from ICE, NARA received an unprecedented number of comments. Comments under review by NARA include three congressional letters with a total of 36 signatures (29 house members, 7 senators); a petition from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with 23,758 comments, a petition from UltraViolet with 1,475 signatures; written comments from 187 individuals and six organizations; and phone calls from seven individuals. Comments were received via request.schedule@nara.gov and postal mail, and gathered from other sources such as the main National Archives email address inquire@nara.gov, web inquiry forms, the National Archives Office of Inspector General, and from NARA employees who received comments directly from concerned citizens.

NARA staff have been reviewing these comments and working with ICE to address them and revise the schedule accordingly. In addition, the Archivist of the United States has directed NARA subject matter experts to conduct a comprehensive review of all ICE schedules that relate to deaths and assaults of detainees in ICE facilities.

After the public comments have been assessed and the comprehensive review is complete, NARA will require ICE to make all changes to the proposed schedule. Our plan is to publish a public notice via the Federal Register responding to all comments. We will make all reasonable efforts to notify interested individuals, such as media outlets that previously contacted us, the ACLU, and commenters who directly provided substantive comments.

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