According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has sent a request to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to "approve its timetable for retaining or destroying records related to its detention operations."
ICE is seeking to receive permission to destroy 11 different types of records, which include "sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody," according to the ACLU. "Other records subject to destruction include alternatives to detention programs; regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities and communications from the public reporting detention abuses."
"An entire paper trail for a system rife with human rights and constitutional abuses is at stake," the organization wrote.
ICE's tactics have a well-documented history of controversy and abuse, and they have only broadened under President Donald Trump. But even less is known about what takes place to suspects held in the agency's custody. NARA has "provisionally approved" ICE's requests for terminating records.
"In cases of sexual assault and death, for example, NARA states that these records 'do not document significant actions of Federal officials,'" the ACLU wrote. "It’s hard to believe that the actions of a federal official are not significant in the death or sexual assault of an individual who is in federal immigration custody."
NARA added that in cases of sexual assault, the "information is highly sensitive and does not warrant retention."
"Keeping these documents available is necessary for the public to understand and fully evaluate the operation of a system that is notorious for inhumane and unconstitutional conditions affecting hundreds of thousands of people every year," the ACLU argued.
The news comes after Trump recently pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was notorious for his racism and aggressively hunting Latinos. It was a move that strongly appealed to key factions of his base. Trump has again recently insisted his campaign promise that Mexico will eventually pay for a wall that would span the U.S.-Mexico border, though there are no actual plans for them to do so.
"If the Trump administration has its way, the number of immigrants in detention will increase, detention conditions will deteriorate further and more people will be subjected to life-threatening circumstances and denied their most basic rights," the ACLU explained. "ICE shouldn’t be allowed to purge important records and keep its operations out of the public eye."