Nov 30, 2022 - Politics & Policy

ICE accidentally posted identities of 6,000 asylum seekers to agency website

A law enforcement officer walks through hall at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Washington, D.C. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Wednesday that it had erroneously posted on its website data identifying 6,252 asylum seekers in ICE custody.

Driving the news: The posted document, which included immigrants' names, case status and detention locations, stayed up on the website for about five hours, the Los Angeles Times reports. The disclosure could increase the level of threat to the asylum seekers, many of whom fled gangs and government retaliation to seek protection in the U.S.

  • The information was posted Monday morning while the agency was performing routine updates. Federal regulation dictates that the personal information of asylum seekers be kept confidential.
  • Immigrant advocacy group Human Rights First first flagged the data breach to ICE, per an agency official.

What they're saying: "Upon notification, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took swift action to immediately rectify the error," the agency said in a statement.

  • "Though unintentional, this release of information is a breach of policy and the agency is investigating the incident and taking all corrective actions necessary. ICE is notifying noncitizens impacted by the disclosure."

Worth noting: The government plans to contact people who downloaded the information to ask them to delete it, the official said.

  • ICE is also placing high-interest notice alerts on impacted immigrants to ensure the agency does not take further action before determining if the disclosure affects their protection claim.

The big picture: With ICE ramping up efforts to track migrants, immigration advocates and civil rights groups have warned against the misuse or abuse of data, emphasizing the stakes for people fleeing persecution.

  • "Any breach of asylum seeker information in such a public way could quite literally have life or death consequences and the government must take every precaution to protect their safety," Blaine Bookey, the legal director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, told the Times.
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