U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement
About the agency
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a law enforcement agency of the federal government (within DHS) tasked with enforcing the immigration laws of the United States, and with investigating criminal activity of foreign nationals residing in the United States. ICE has two primary components: Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). ICE is the largest investigative arm of DHS.
The exemptions most commonly invoked by ICE in processing FOIA requests are Exemption 2, Exemption 6, and Exemption 7(C). The prevalence of exemption 7 is due to the fact that, as stated above, ICE is the largest investigative arm of DHS and is technically law enforcement. However, despite the barriers associated with obtaining ICE records, courts have on a few occasions encouraged ICE to be more diligent with its disclosures. For example, in Am. Immigration Council v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 950 F. Supp. 2d 221, 240 (D.D.C. 2013), after stating that ICE had "offered perfunctory descriptions that are vague and categorical" of why a particular exemption should apply, the court reminded ICE that calling a record a "draft document" does not guarantee protection under Exemption 5 -- the government must also prove that the document is pre-decisional and related to a deliberative process. Id. at 241.
Requester suggestions, tips and guidance
Requests may be sent via email to ICE-FOIA@dhs.gov, by fax to (202) 732-4265, or by USPS to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Freedom of Information Act Office, 500 12th Street, S.W., Stop 5009, Washington, D.C. 20536-5009.
The ICE FOIA office phone line is unmonitored, requiring requesters seeking assistance with their FOIA requests to send emails to the above-listed email address. Requesters often experience delays in hearing back regarding their queries, in which case follow-up emails can be effective.
Reading agency declarations can prove extremely helpful in researching for and preparing a FOIA request because they can teach us a lot about agency record systems.
Some examples of ICE FOIA declarations are from Catrina Pavlik-Keenan: (1) Docket # 25 in D.D.C. case # 1:12-CV-00856 (American Immigration Council v. DHS et al); (2) Dockets # 50 and (3) #23 in District of Oregon case # 3:13-CV-00035 (Ho v. DHS et al.)
Appeals suggestions, tips and guidance
Exploring agency declarations not only offers help when it comes to learning about record-keeping but declarations can teach us about search protocols. Thus, information gleaned from declarations can help you in challenging an agency's search as inadequate in an administrative appeal if you can learn certain details about the agency's search procedures.