UPDATE 10/4/23 – ICE has been ordered to pay the ACLU of Maine $25,878 in attorneys fees since the agency blatantly violated the Freedom of Information Act. Let this be a reminder to government officials: When you hide public documents from the public and break the law, it will cost you. Read the settlement agreement here.
PORTLAND – A federal judge last week ordered United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement to conduct a new search of the agency’s records and to release items related to their detention practices in Maine and a proposed facility in Scarborough. The ACLU of Maine and local immigrants’ rights advocates sued ICE after the agency blatantly ignored the groups’ lawful 2021 request for records under the Freedom of Information Act.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has previously detained people from other New England states at the Cumberland County Jail and now has murky plans to open a facility in Scarborough. In January 2021, the ACLU of Maine, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, and the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic at the University of Maine School of Law requested documents from ICE about the agency’s detention practices during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and its plans to open a new facility in Maine.
“The district court’s final decision is a victory for transparency that will shed more light on ICE, an agency that operates in the shadows and evades public accountability,” said ACLU of Maine Legal Director Carol Garvan. “The court’s action makes clear that federal agencies like ICE have no right to operate in Maine without allowing the public to know what they are doing. ICE has a long history of abusing its power, physically and psychologically harming people, and rejecting basic standards of human decency.”
“When we know what ICE is doing, we can resist its abuses,” said Garvan.
This court order also holds the agency accountable for their past actions. The court plainly stated that ICE acted unreasonably when the agency conducted an inadequate search following the lawsuit. A timeline for the new search is expected to be agreed upon this week.
A magistrate judge issued a recommended decision in the case on March 27, 2023. It was adopted by Judge John A. Woodcock of the United States District Court for the District of Maine on April 12, 2023.