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Nine States Sue Feds, Demand Release of Immigrant Records

sunrise-721180_640-300x198A group of nine states and the District of Columbia have filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday, seeking a court order to get access to records on the detention and deportation of immigrants within each state and district’s jurisdiction.

Maura Healey, Attorney General for the State of Massachusetts, filed the lawsuit against the DHS and other concerned federal immigration agencies in Massachusetts federal court. The petition aptly cites the US Freedom of Information Act in demanding the release of the documents.

The plaintiff attorneys general had earlier filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in June addressed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The 27-page complaint includes the states of California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia as its plaintiffs.

Among the lawsuit’s demands were the release of details on immigration enforcement operations surrounding migrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, fulfilled detainer requests, as well as accounts of the arrests made in certain areas. The plaintiffs claim that their FOIA requests received no response from the defendant agencies, prompting further legal action – the current lawsuit.

The lawsuit states: “It is critical for plaintiff states to understand the nature of federal immigration enforcement activities and the effects of these activities on the residents and law enforcement agencies of the respective states.

Defendants have violated FOIA by failing to respond to plaintiff states’ requests within the statutorily prescribed time limit, failing to disclose the requested documents, and unlawfully withholding the requested information.”

According to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, immigration enforcement operations thus far have been a hindrance to local law enforcement, alleging that the federal government’s lack of transparency has forced many immigrant New Yorkers into the shadows, undermining state and local efforts to keep communities safe in the process.

The plaintiffs add that another reason behind the lawsuit were media reports of DACA recipients and even foreign-born U.S. citizens being deported.

These reports came as the execution of Operation Safe City saw the arrest of nearly 500 allegedly undocumented immigrants in the states of Colorado, California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia – identified immigrant “sanctuaries.”

Tom Homan, Acting ICE Director, justified the arrests in a statement: “Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allows us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration. … As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”

ICE has refused to comment on the lawsuit.

Most recently, the Trump administration announced an end to DACA, an Obama-era immigration program that grants temporary protection against undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. If you, or a loved one, are under DACA status and want to discuss your legal options, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm.