Activists Sue 10 Federal Agencies Over Secrecy in Deporting Alleged Criminals

January 20, 2016
The Texas Tribune

A coalition of attorneys and immigrant rights groups is suing 10 federal agencies over withholding documents related to how the Obama administration is dealing with deporting alleged criminal immigrants.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Asian-Americans Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus and the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo Law School, alleges the agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office of Immigration Review, have violated public records laws for not releasing information about implementing the Priority Enforcement Program, also known as PEP. The program is  intended to prioritize the deportation of what government officials have called “the worst of the worst.”

"ICE is, once again, operating in secrecy. It's time for the nation's largest police force to come clean," said NDLON executive director Pablo Alvarado.

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Some groups in Texas maintain the policy change hasn’t made any difference, despite federal officials' promises that PEP would be less sweeping.

“The deportation rate in Travis County, Texas, home to so-called liberal oasis Austin, continues to be one of the highest in the state and the U.S. An average of 19 people a week are deported from Travis County,” said Grassroots Leadership, a nonprofit group opposed to Secure Communities and PEP, in a statement in July. The group posted on its website a video clip of Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton telling county commissioners that PEP was, in essence, the same as Secure Communities and “all [the government] did was change the name.”