There have been many stories in the news about Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records and when these records will be eligible for destruction. Some of the more recent stories raise concerns about a three-year retention for “detainees’ complaints about civil rights violations and shoddy medical care.”
Any member of the public, including detainees in ICE custody, can file complaints about civil rights and civil liberties regarding Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policies, programs, and activities. These complaints are investigated by the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL).
When complaints about ICE are filed, CRCL decides whether to refer the complaint to ICE or retain the complaint for investigation. The majority of investigations are retained by CRCL and these records are kept for 75 years. In some instances, the DHS Office of Inspector General (IG) will conduct the investigation instead of CRCL.
As ICE and CRCL manage their records, four different records schedules discussed below govern the retention of complaint investigations. Taken together, these records schedules tell the complete story of how records of civil rights complaint investigations are managed.
The most recent annual report to Congress in 2018, shows that CRCL investigates the vast majority of cases. For the small number of cases referred to ICE, the communications between CRCL and ICE, including copies of records responsive to the complaint, are kept by ICE for 3 years and by CRCL for 7 years after case closure (see records schedule DAA-0567-2015-0010 and N1-563-07-0006).
Permanent records that will be transferred to the National Archives include the CRCL Annual Report to Congress, which provides information about CRCL’s work and the numbers of complaints investigated (see records schedule DAA-0563-2013-0005).
In addition, the National Archives will receive records of the investigations by the IG and CRCL that (1) involve substantive information relating to national security, (2) involve allegations made against senior DHS officials, or (3) attract national media or Congressional attention (see records schedule N1-563-07-005 and N1-563-07-0006). CRCL will additionally transfer to NARA for preservation all cases that present significant or novel questions of law or policy, or result in substantive changes in DHS policies and procedures.
For more information about the records schedule review process, including how federal agencies submit proposed schedules to NARA for review, appraisal, and public comment, see our website. In addition, NARA has produced a video that describes the critical role the public plays in the records scheduling process.