Updated 07:02 AM EST, Tue, Nov 24, 2020

ICE & DHS Sued by Immigrant Rights Groups for Failing to Provide Requested Documents about New Deportation Program

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Immigration rights groups are filing a lawsuit against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, and eight other federal agencies for failing to provide requested documents about a new deportation program.

The groups are suing after ICE failed to hand them any documents about the Priority Enforcement Program, or PEP, despite a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, Fox News Latino reported. The groups include the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, or NDLON, and the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo Law School.

"There is a major lack of clarity and scope with the new program," Salvador Sarmiento, a spokesperson for NDLON, told Fox News Latino.

Out of all the 10 agencies that were given FOIA requests, only five documents have been provided to the immigration groups, the news outlet reported.

Sarmiento argued that the information being withheld by ICE holds great importance now that the U.S. presidential election is less than a year away, Fox News Latino wrote. The documents also have significance on the anti-immigrant rhetoric being made by presidential hopefuls such as Donald Trump.

"We represent migrant workers and day laborers - people that are the first to be deported and who have very little rights," Sarmiento said, as quoted by the news outlet. "The fact that this is a political year makes it all the more pressing that we have some transparency."

PEP was instituted by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson as a substitute for the controversial Secure Communities program, Fox News Latino noted.

With biometric data, the new program prioritizes the deportation of detained immigrants who have been "convicted of an offense listed under the DHS civil immigration enforcement priorities, has intentionally participated in an organized criminal gang to further the illegal activity of the gang or poses a danger to national security," according to ICE's website.

Johnson has commended PEP, but activists on both sides of the immigration debate have opposed the program, Fox News Latino noted. According to immigration advocates, PEP will encourage distrust between migrant communities and law enforcement. Meanwhile, people who favor tougher immigration laws have called the program unsuccessful and a threat to community safety.

"The implementation of ICE's new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) is a major setback to rule of law in our country," Jessica Vaughan, the Center for Immigration Studies' director of policy studies, said in August 2015. "It further scales back immigration enforcement by ICE, and it explicitly facilitates sanctuary jurisdictions in obstructing ICE efforts to take custody of criminal aliens."

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will review President Barack Obama's order on immigrant deportations, AFP reported (via Yahoo! News).

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