Appraising Records of U.S Immigration Detention
On July 14th, 2017, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) posted a notice in the Federal Register that U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was seeking permission to destroy eleven types of records related to people detained by ICE. These include records of sexual abuse and assault, escapes, deaths, solitary confinement, and complaints made to a hotline by those in ICE custody. ICE requested timelines for the destruction of these records ranging from three to twenty years and in late August 2017, NARA granted preliminary approval of this request. This perspective essay seeks to shed light on the vast array of arguments asserting the value of these records to the people in ICE detention. Moreover, it attempts to weigh the evidence of ICE’s recordkeeping practices, the preponderance of which points to ICE’s inability and aversion to accurate, truthful and accessible documentation surrounding its operation. This exploration ultimately considers this historical moment as one in which archives can show their value as resources for government accountability, historical research and communities of migrants and refugees to argue that it is incumbent upon archivists to seize the opportunity.
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