Federal agencies sued by immigrant rights groups over deportations

A lawsuit against the immigration and detention policies of the Obama administration has been filed by immigrant rights groups. The advocates allege that no less than 10 federal offices, including US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have been “secretive” when it comes to the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) deportation operation and want PEP information disclosed by federal agencies.

“ICE is, once again, operating in secrecy,” says the National Day Laborer Organizing Network’s executive director, Pablo Alvarado. “It’s time for the nation’s largest police force to come clean. PEP has failed to meet the bare minimum requirements for transparency and accountability.” The Freedom of Information Act is being used by the immigrant rights groups after ICE refused to disclose any documentation for over ten months after the group’s initial request for information.

PEP was the successor to the much-criticized Secure Communities program. It was launched in November  2014, on the same day that President Obama announced his executive action to expand the deferred action program, which still languishes in legal limbo. The immigrant rights groups also want further information on the recent deportation campaigns against Central American undocumented immigrants carried out by the Department of Homeland Security.

Danelly Bello from Cardozo Law School’s Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic says the public has the right to know whether PEP is different in name only from Secure Communities. “It is imperative that immigrant communities learn about the practical implementation of this massive immigration enforcement program in order to assert their rights and protect their families,” he says.