In the dying minutes of the Obama administration’s final term, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed from its website a collection of almost 200 speeches and testimonies delivered by agency leadership dating back to 2004. With a couple of clicks of a mouse, access to a federal government web resource containing 12 years of primary source materials on ICE’s history was lost. In our most recent report, the Web Integrity Project (WIP) documents the removal of this collection.
As our report details, a collection of 190 transcripts of speeches and testimonies hosted on the ICE website’s “Speeches and Testimonies” page was removed between the early afternoon of January 18 and late evening on January 19, 2017. (Compare the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine captures from January 18, 2017 and on January 19, 2017.) The transcripts were of speeches and testimony delivered between 2004 and 2017 by high-ranking ICE officials, including the director of the agency and directors of ICE sub-units. Most contained prepared remarks submitted to congressional committees, often on controversial topics like the standard of medical treatment for detainees, treatment of unaccompanied children, sanctuary cities, drug trafficking, and E-Verify.
Testimony from Thomas Homan, who was appointed Acting Director of ICE by President Trump soon after inauguration in January 2017, featured prominently in the removed collection. In one removed transcript — a February 2016 statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the “Unaccompanied Children Crisis” — then-Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Homan detailed how ICE contracted out to “effectuate” the transportation of “UC” and enumerated the “important steps” that the administration had taken to “deter illegal immigration.” In another removed transcript from May 2016, Homan detailed how local jurisdictions “limiting or declining cooperation with ICE” put “the public at risk.” It is not inconceivable that an outgoing Democratic administration might want to avoid preserving these public stances for future scrutiny.
Among the removed transcripts with less controversial content, then-Assistant Secretary, Michael Garcia, purports to quote Ricky Martin at a 2004 United Nations luncheon regarding Child Sex Tourism. Another contains the remarks of then-Director, John Morton, at the funeral of Special Agent Jaime J. Zapata. While less politically salient, these transcripts are important pieces of ICE’s history.