American Oversight Sues ICE for Family-Separation Memos

American Oversight’s investigation into the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy has uncovered evidence of chaos, confusion, and obfuscation surrounding the planning and implementation of that policy’s most controversial component: the separation of families at the border. Today, American Oversight is suing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for records of ICE policy memos on enforcing the zero-tolerance family-separation policy. 

In June 2018, following early reports that children were being separated from their parents at the border, American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Homeland Security seeking any emails from specific officials that contain key words like “asylum,” “zero tolerance,” and “credible fear.” This request yielded a treasure trove of documents. In one production, we received emails among Thomas Blank, former chief of staff at ICE, Debbie Seguin, program manager at ICE, and an individual whose name is redacted. They discuss ICE policy memos “addressing enforcement, zero tolerance, or family separation.” 

In March 2020, American Oversight filed a FOIA request with ICE seeking those memos. Today’s lawsuit seeks to compel ICE to release those records.

This is the second lawsuit the watchdog group has filed against ICE in recent weeks after the agency failed to respond to records requests. Last week, American Oversight sued ICE for documents related to any grievances filed at six different detention facilities related to Covid-19 outbreaks.

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