BOSTON (CN) – Attorneys general for nine states and the District of Columbia demanded Tuesday that Homeland Security respond to requests for records about the detention and deportation of immigrants in each of the states.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and federal immigration agencies under its umbrella in Massachusetts federal court.
She was joined by the attorneys general of California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia.
“The federal government has significantly increased its immigration enforcement activities, including, for example, a nearly 40 percent increase in arrests within the first four months of 2017,” the complaint states. “It is critical for plaintiff states to understand the nature of federal immigration enforcement activities and the effects of these activities on the residents and law enforcement agencies of the respective states.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement that immigrants in the Empire State and across the country “are living in fear because of the Trump administration’s draconian policies.”
“The federal government’s total lack of transparency forces immigrant New Yorkers into the shadows and undermines state and local efforts to keep our communities safe,” Schneiderman said.
In June, the 10 attorneys general filed FIOA requests for details on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipients, arrests and detentions of individuals at sensitive locations such as schools and jobsites, and detainer requests.
The FOIA requests were sent to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which are also named as defendants in Tuesday’s lawsuit.
Those requests went unanswered, the attorneys general claim.
The complaint says the states are requesting records to which they have a legal right.
“Defendants have violated FOIA by failing to respond to plaintiff states' request within the statutorily prescribed time limit, failing to disclose the requested documents, and unlawfully withholding the requested information,” the 27-page lawsuit states.
In their initial request, the attorneys general say they referenced local and national media reports of the deportation of people approved for DACA, those meeting with federal immigration officials to discuss their status, and even U.S. citizens.
They seek a court order compelling Homeland Security and ICE to search for and promptly disclose all records responsive to their request.
A spokesperson for ICE did not respond Tuesday to an emailed request for comment on Tuesday’s lawsuit.
Last month, ICE touted the arrest of 498 allegedly undocumented immigrants as part of Operation Safe City.
The multi-state operation saw arrests in Maryland, Illinois, Colorado, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, the District of Columbia and Massachusetts. Self-proclaimed sanctuary cities were specifically targeted.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration,” ICE Acting Director Tom Homan said at the time. “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”
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