The American Civil Liberties Union warned Monday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has requested permission from the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) to adjust the timetable used to decide when to keep or destroy records. Although ICE may try to pass this off as a record-keeping efficiency measure, the ACLU says this is not the case:

An entire paper trail for a system rife with human rights and constitutional abuses is at stake.

ICE has asked for permission to begin routinely destroying 11 kinds of records, including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody. Other records subject to destruction include alternatives to detention programs; regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities and communications from the public reporting detention abuses. ICE proposed various timelines for the destruction of these records ranging from 20 years for sexual assault and death records to three years for reports about solitary confinement.

Many of the records the ICE proposes for destruction offer proof of human rights abuses inflicted upon those in detention. The ACLU notes that ICE’s request to purge records more often is “all the more disturbing” in light of the Trump administration’s plans to increase detentions and deportations of undocumented immigrants. Perhaps of most concern is the fact that the NARA has already provisionally approved ICE’s request, along with a troubling explanation:

In cases of sexual assault and death, for example, NARA states that these records “do not document significant actions of Federal officials.” It’s hard to believe that the actions of a federal official are not significant in the death or sexual assault of an individual who is in federal immigration custody. NARA also posited that in cases of sexual assault, that the “information is highly sensitive and does not warrant retention.”

Given the time it can take to build a legal case and the government’s slowness to provide records of wrongdoing, the ACLU says that having a full and thorough record of ICE’s actions is a necessary step to justice. The organization continues:

Recent reports by advocacy groups document sexual assaults in detention without adequate investigation or remedy, sub-standard medical care, the overuse of solitary confinement as well as threats and physical assault by custody staff. Since October 2016, there have been 10 deaths in immigration detention. Many of the records used in these reports and analyses would not have been made available without sustained public pressure to force ICE to maintain and divulge this information

In related news, President Trump appears to be preparing to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects from deportation nearly 800,000 undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. illegally. Many have known no other home, and the protection allows them to participate in their communities without being under the threat of deportation. Ten state attorneys general and the governor of Idaho gave Trump an ultimatum in June to end DACA by Sept. 5, saying they would sue to end the protection if the president did not act.

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