ICE Has Access to DACA Recipients’ Personal Information Despite Promises Suggesting Otherwise, Internal Emails Show

ICE Has Access to DACA Recipients’ Personal Information Despite Promises Suggesting Otherwise, Internal Emails Show

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Originally published by Politico

When undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors applied for deportation protections and work permits, the forms included a promise: The information would not be shared with immigration enforcement agents.

The pledge was first made by the Obama administration, when it created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, eight years ago. It continued under President Donald Trump. Even after Trump announced that he was ending DACA, his administration assured immigrants that the information on their applications generally wouldn’t be sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

But internal administration emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Make the Road New York, and shared with ProPublica, show that those assurances — given to Congress under oath and in lawsuits over the program — were incomplete or misleading.

The Trump administration left out the fact that immigration enforcement agencies already had access to databases containing detailed information, such as home addresses, about DACA recipients and millions of other immigrants.

“ICE already has the information,” Gene Hamilton, an appointee at the Department of Homeland Security, wrote in an internal email shortly before Trump’s announcement in September 2017. (Hamilton is now at the Department of Justice.) “There is no way to take that back.”

Two weeks later, the communications show, the agency decided to leave that fact out of congressional testimony.

Staff had prepared talking points for a question they expected to be asked at an upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “Please explain how and when the personal information provided by DACA applicants is provided to ICE.”

A draft response included the sentence: “DHS personnel have mutual access to some of the electronic systems used by USCIS,” or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that runs DACA. But the sentence was removed by an agency lawyer. It was “not essential to responding to the specific question asked,” the lawyer wrote, “and is likely to generate considerable anxiety among DACA requestors.”

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