The National Immigrant Justice Center’s Transparency and Human Rights Project uses federal Freedom of Information Act and local open records laws to combat secrecy and expose systemic abuse in the U.S. immigration detention and enforcement system. The project works to shed light on the largest immigration detention system in the world, and demand accountability from agencies that violate human rights and recklessly spend billions in taxpayer dollars every year.
Exposing ICE detention contracts and inspections
Since 2015, NIJC’s ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation has resulted in the most comprehensive public release to date of ICE detention center contracts and inspections. The thousands of pages of documents provide an unprecedented look into an extraordinarily abusive system that lacks accountability, shields ICE from public scrutiny, and allows local governments and private prison companies to brazenly maximize profits at the expense of basic human rights. The project continues to obtain and analyze government documents and other records that shine a light on the obscure U.S. immigration enforcement and detention system.
Holding local governments accountable for jailing immigrants
Local records requests filed by NIJC, often in partnership with local immigrant rights groups, have exposed how local governments have used the detention of immigrants as a revenue stream, and how ICE often uses these contracts to bypass federal procurement law and stifle accountability for violations that occur within its detention centers’ walls. These transparency efforts are important for community, legal, and legislative efforts to prevent the expansion of new ICE detention centers.
Exposing human rights violations behind laws that criminalize migration
NIJC has filed a number of FOIA requests to shed light on the use of Sections 1325 and 1326 of Title 8 of the U.S. Code, which make it a federal crime to enter or reenter the United States after a deportation or removal order without proper authorization. Immigrant communities and advocates continue to document harms associated with immigration-related prosecutions, and members of Congress, recognizing the due process violations inherent in these prosecutions, have introduced legislation to repeal federal laws that make it a crime to enter the U.S. without authorization.
Untangling the lies behind Trump’s “zero tolerance” and family separation policies
In April 2018, NIJC filed FOIA requests in collaboration with the American Immigration Council, the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, Kids in Need of Defense, and Women's Refugee Commission, for internal records on family separation. The FOIA requests, and subsequent litigation led by the American Immigration Council have produced records exposing how DHS sought to develop a false narrative demonizing victims of family separation.