SAA Statement on ICE Records and Government Transparency

Substantial concern is being raised about recent action by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) regarding the presentation of two sets of records on their website. A collection of speeches and testimonies made by agency leaders was removed in 2017; the record of detainee deaths while in ICE custody remains on the website but is no longer updated. Both types of record are considered permanent by the National Archives and Records Administration and are part of records schedules that are applicable to ICE. Currently agencies are responsible for maintaining their own websites and they may add or remove documentation of their activities at will. In the cases of the aforementioned records and numerous others, the public has come to expect access to up-to-date online information, whether or not required by law. With agencies under particular scrutiny, such as ICE, provision of documents online supports government transparency and allows the public to hold the government accountable for its actions.

Equitable public access to government information is a cornerstone of our republic. The Society of American Archivists (SAA) strongly endorses records scheduling and permanent retention that ensures protection of individual rights, accountability of governments and organizations, and accessibility of historical information. SAA continues to call on government agencies to provide the American public with access to records—transparently and proactively—and we urge government agencies to refrain from unauthorized destruction or removal of essential documents from public review.


Approved by the SAA Council on July 8, 2019.