Immigration Rights Groups Sue to Get More Information on Priority Enforcement Program

An important federal policy impacting the lives of millions of people should be freely discussed, but that’s not possible without enough information about it. That’s the main idea behind a lawsuit filed in January by three immigrant rights groups against ten federal agencies, first of which is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to The Latin Post. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, doesn’t seek a change in policies — only the release of information and documents.

The plaintiffs (the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law) claim the defendants are being “secretive” about the deportation program known as the “Priority Enforcement Program” (PEP). PEP is a large-scale deportation program implemented by federal, state and local officials.

The complaint alleges the plaintiffs sought information from the defendants about PEP in 2015 through the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In response to those requests, the plaintiffs allegedly received only 35 pages of documents and a link to another eight-page document available online from two of the ten defendants.

The plaintiffs argue the immigration and deportation policies are the subjects of a nationwide debate. Defendants’ failure to release information and documents sought in 2015 is in violation of FOIA and makes that debate more difficult because of lack of information about federal policies and practices. This secrecy is an attempt to shield the federal government from public accountability, according to the lawsuit.

PEP was launched in November 2014 on the same day President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs. PEP followed the “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) program, which came under heavy criticism.

S-Comm created a path to deportation. It began in 2008 and was later broadened to require local jails and prisons to provide ICE with the fingerprints of anyone being processed (including those not yet found guilty of a crime). If it determined a detainee was a threat, the agency would issue a detainer, a 48-hour hold in the local jail or prison which could be extended by weeks or months.

Though meant to find undocumented immigrants, S-Comm also caught up U.S. citizens. Some local and state governments refused to cooperate with S-Comm because the detainers weren’t warrants issued by a judge but were actions by a federal agency plagued with problems, reports Colorlines.

The plaintiffs are seeking more information to find out the differences between PEP and S-Comm, if any. Danelly Bello of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo Law School is quoted by the Latin Times as saying, “It is imperative that immigrant communities learn about the practical implementation of this massive immigration enforcement program in order to assert their rights and protect their families.”

If you or a loved one living in Kentucky have been caught up in the “Secure Communities” campaign and may face deportation, talk with the dedicated Kentucky immigration lawyers at CF Abogados today. Please give CF Abogados a call at (859) 971-0060 or fill out the online contact form to GET HELP NOW.