Judge scolds government over immigrant documents

NEW YORK A federal judge on Monday questioned whether the government was trying to hide or obscure something by failing to give information to a civil rights group about thousands of immigrant detainees held for long periods.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman’s written decision came days after government attorneys insisted they needed more time to comply with his September order granting the American Civil Liberties Union’s Freedom of Information Act request.

The ACLU has said it wants to expose a flawed system that keeps thousands of detainees behind bars for long periods while their eligibility to remain in the country is adjudicated.

Berman wrote that the government “continues, quite obviously, to drag its heals in providing disclosure about immigrant detentions. Hopefully, it is not also trying to hide or obscure a distressing system or set of facts.”

He noted that the U.S. General Accounting Office in a 2004 report found that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lacks information to provide assurance that its custody reviews of detainees are timely and its custody determinations consistent with the law.

He said the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General in February 2007 determined that required custody decisions were not made in more than 6 percent of cases and were not timely more than 19 percent of the time.

Berman said the government offered “very unpersuasive arguments” when it opposed the ACLU’s original FOIA request nearly five years ago. The ACLU sued the government in federal court in Manhattan in 2011 to force it to turn over the documents.

In a footnote, the judge said he questioned whether the government’s Dec. 25 request for a delay was a misuse of resources that “would not better and more usefully be directed to providing appropriate public disclosure of information regarding the underlying problems of immigrant detention.”

He also said the letter “continues a troubling pattern of, at best,” a loose interpretation of the court’s September order requiring the government to turn over the documents.

In a letter to Berman in November, the government said it could provide 100 out of 22,000 immigrant detainee files within seven years. In a letter last week, the government said it could now provide 385 files within 15 months. Berman questioned if the government had “simply sought to move the goal posts.”

A spokeswoman for government lawyers said Monday that they had no comment.

ACLU attorney Michael Tan said Berman’s decision “confirms — once again — that the government needs to comply with FOIA so that the public can take a real look at how it’s running the immigration lock-up system.”

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court said detained immigrants are supposed to be deported or released within about six months.

In 2009, The Associated Press found through a computer analysis of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement database that there were 32,000 immigrants from 177 countries detained, including more than 18,000 with no criminal convictions. The analysis showed that nearly 10,000 had been in custody more than a month and that 400 of those with no criminal records had been locked up more than a year.

More in Local News

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
Everett’s brush with Katharine Graham, leader of ‘The Post’

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson recalls The Washington Post publisher’s visits.

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Families seek to change wrongful death law

A bill would allow or parents or siblings who wish to pursue a suit for an unmarried, childless adult.

Most Read