Haitian families walk through a gap in U.S.-Mexico border wall on December 07, 2021 into Yuma, Arizona. (John Moore/Getty Images)
The names of more than 6,000 people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention seeking protection from persecution were published on the agency’s website Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
An Excel spreadsheet containing the names and noncitizen identification numbers of 6,252 people who are seeking asylum was published around 9:45 a.m. EDT Monday. Though the agency said it usually publishes such information in aggregate and keeps the asylum seekers anonymous, this time, it was published with the inclusion of a tab that contained personal identifiable information. The spreadsheet containing the information remained online for more than five hours before the nonprofit Human Rights First alerted ICE to it at 1:53 p.m. EDT. Eleven minutes later, the agency deleted the spreadsheet from its website, the agency said. “Though unintentional, this release of information is a breach of policy and the agency is investigating the incident and taking all corrective actions necessary,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement. The migrants are seeking asylum by claiming the need for safety from governments, individuals, and organizations (such as gangs) that are threatening them. Those whose information appeared on the website include migrants from Russia and Iran, according to the Los Angeles Times. ICE said that it’s notifying the asylum seekers or the lawyers representing them of the breach, monitoring the internet for re-posting of the document, and placing alerts on the cases of migrants so they aren’t deported while it’s determined whether the disclosure impacted their cases.
The agency also launched an internal investigation into the incident, saying it would identify IP addresses that downloaded the spreadsheet while it was online and send “clawback” letters requesting that people who downloaded the document destroy it. When asked by VICE News how many IP addresses ICE had identified, or if the clawback letter was legally enforceable, an ICE spokesperson declined to comment further.Immigration lawyers and human rights experts told the Los Angeles Times that the disclosure could have life or death consequences for the people whose information was divulged. National Immigrant Justice Center managing attorney Diana Rashid told the Times that a client of the organization who is originally from Mexico was on the list.“We are deeply concerned about our client’s safety after ICE publicly shared this very sensitive information about her and thousands of others like her,” Rashid told the Times. “She is seeking protection from removal because she fears persecution if returned to her country of origin. Revealing this information makes her more vulnerable to the persecution and abuses she fears if deported.”Though those on the list are currently in ICE detention centers, the disclosure also happened the same week that ICE’s parent agency issued a terrorism advisory bulletin warning of a “persistent and lethal threat” to migrants, LGBTQ+ people, and Jews.“Potential changes in border security enforcement policy, an increase in noncitizens attempting to enter the U.S., or other immigration-related developments may heighten these calls for violence,” DHS said in the bulletin.Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.