New Documents Reveal ICE Access to DACA Recipients’ Information

April 21, 2020

Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149
Yatziri Tovar, [email protected], 917-771-2818
José Alonso Muñoz, [email protected], 202-810-0746

New Documents Reveal ICE Access to DACA Recipients’ Information

NEW YORK, NY — As immigrant youth await a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the unlawful termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), documents obtained by Make the Road New York and Make the Road Connecticut through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Trump administration reveal that information DACA applicants shared in confidence in their applications can be accessed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The news organization ProPublica revealed this new information publicly today in a new article. The documents reveal that ICE has broad access to DACA information submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through direct access to USCIS databases and the ability to obtain DACA recipients’ complete files. The new documents contradict multiple past declarations by USCIS — on the DACA application form instructions, on its website, and in lawsuits — that information provided with a DACA application is protected from disclosure to ICE for immigration enforcement except in limited circumstances.

Make the Road New York and Make the Road Connecticut, represented by the National Immigration Law Center, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the federal government hoping to shed light on the motives behind the administration’s decision to terminate the DACA program.

“I applied for DACA and shared my information because USCIS assured me that my information would be protected. It is deeply alarming to know that, under Trump, the deportation machine of ICE has access to this information,” said Carolina Fung Feng, plaintiff in Wolf v. Batalla Vidal, and member of Make the Road New York. “This new information makes it even clearer that if the Supreme Court decides to side with the Trump administration, it will put hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth like me at grave risk. USCIS must commit to stop information-sharing with ICE and not be complicit to Trump’s plan to separate us from our communities. And, in the next recovery negotiations, Congress must act to automatically extend protections for DACA and TPS holders.”

“These new documents provide further evidence of just how out of control Trump’s deportation machine is,” said Barbara Lopez, director of Make the Road Connecticut. “When undocumented youth provided their personal information, USCIS vowed it would not share its information for immigration enforcement purposes. Now we know that, under the Trump administration, ICE has access. As DACA recipients await a decision by the Supreme Court, we demand USCIS commit to end all personal information-sharing with ICE. We must continue to fiercely fight for our communities, and against the deportation and separation of our loved ones.”

“The information reveals what organizers have known for years: the deportation force’s only aim is to keep immigrants looking over our shoulders, living with the fear that the deportation agents would separate us from our families,” said Cynthia Garcia, DACA recipient and deportation defense manager at United We Dream. “The documents also make it crystal clear that the consequence of the Supreme Court potentially siding with Trump on the DACA cases is detention and deportation. But our community is resilient, and an informed community is a powerful one. That is why we will ensure that more immigrants know their rights. The Trump administration has expanded and weaponized ICE and CBP to target, detain, and deport all immigrants, but DACA recipients and our families can take measures to protect ourselves. Our families can download the Notifica app to create a contingency plan for potential interactions with immigration enforcement, and also call United We Dream’s MigraWatch Hotline (1-844-363-1423) to report ICE activity in their community.”

“DHS has consistently promised DACA applicants that it would protect their sensitive personal information from immigration enforcement purposes, with very limited exceptions,” said Trudy Rebert, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “The documents we obtained disturbingly show that ICE can nevertheless access information submitted in DACA applications through shared electronic systems or by ordering it from records — ICE does not appear to have to rely on USCIS to proactively provide the information. We continue to seek more detailed information about the magnitude and impact of this information-sharing. We must ensure that DACA applicants’ information is protected.”