National FOIA Actions in Response to ICE’s Operation Mega and Widespread Enforcement Activities

September 2017

In mid-September, several national advocates released insider information regarding "Operation Mega," wherein Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) aimed to rapidly detain nearly 10,000 individuals in a near-nationwide wave of increased enforcement. This move was strategic and timely: ICE intends to use up the remaining resources and available detention bed space rapidly, in an effort to convince Congress to give their agency billions of dollars of funding for continued enforcement activity during the next fiscal year. 

On Tuesday, Sept. 12, at every single field office in the country, immigrant communities filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests demanding details regarding the planning and execution of upcoming ICE enforcement activities as well as the procedures for targeting and capturing individuals agents encounter. Through this effort and other local initiatives, we will continue to monitor the agency’s activity and force its corruption into public view. The deportation force under the Trump Administration has become increasingly unchained and acting with impunity. Leadership like the appointment of Tom Homan as ICE director and the racist rhetoric of Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice confirm this systematic persecution of communities of color, and stand in flagrant violation of our shared values. 

IFCLA partnered with the Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA), the Council on American-Islam Relations, Missouri (CAIR-MO), the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action (MICA) Project, and faith leaders from Central Reform Congregation and Christ Church United Church of Christ to bring this initiative to St. Louis. While the FOIA request was filed nationally and with our field office in Chicago, on Sept. 14, we gathered at ICE in St. Louis and attempted to submit a copy of the FOIA along with our community letter of support. After a brief press conference outside of ICE, a group of clergy and community leaders entered the Enforcement and Removal Operations office, where they refused to accept our information. Finally, we convinced them to receive the letter of support and community statement—with nearly 160 signatures! Click here to view a copy of the letter we submitted. 

On the national level, ICE rejected the FOIA request on the grounds that it was to “broad and burdensome.” Our national partners at the Detention Watch Network, Mijente, and the National Lawyers Guild, revised and re-filed the request. We are currently awaiting their response.