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DHS refuses to release data on illegal immigrants’ cartel ties, citing privacy concerns

The Biden administration is pushing back against a demand by a conservative legal group that it reveals information about the illegal immigrants being considered for arrest and deportation, including their terror, cartel and gang affiliations — arguing that, among other concerns, it could violate their privacy rights.

America First Legal in 2021 filed a Freedom of Information Act request for weekly reports of proposed enforcement actions submitted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to headquarters before they could arrest or deport those illegal immigrants. 

This approval process took effect with the implementation of new guidance from DHS which narrowed ICE priorities to focusing on recent border crossers, public safety threats and national security threats. Information in those weekly reports includes names, addresses, visa information, and any gang, cartel or terror affiliations.

In its document production to AFL, DHS significantly redacted much of the personal identifying information. AFL has challenged this in a U.S. District Court, and DHS is in turn seeking to have that denied.

But Matt O’Brien, director of investigations at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), told Fox News Digital that his organization has been facing similar issues that AFL has faced in getting information, and said it coincided with the administration’s policies becoming more known to the public.

“They have been increasingly resistant to releasing any kind of information. We’ve asked them for policy documents, which should be a matter of public record in a lot of instances, and they’ve never been published the way they should have, and they won’t release them on FOIA requests. So this has been an ongoing problem, and it’s really not the way the government of the United States is supposed to work.”

Former ICE Director Thomas Homan, who served under multiple administrations and is now a senior fellow at IRLI, told Fox News Digital that he believes that data is being withheld for political reasons.,

“I truly believe as a guy who used to be the director of ICE, the guy who has been with ICE most of my career, that this administration has personally been nontransparent because of data that’s going to embarrass this administration,” he said. “It’s going to show that they’re not enforcing the law the way they should be enforcing the law. And the number of arrests of criminal aliens is way below prior years. So this is their way of using a privacy declaration as a way to hide their failure.”

Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Fox News Digital, primarily covering immigration and border security.

He can be reached at or on Twitter.


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