At a Glance
On July 3, 2013, the parties reached settlement and the Judge issued a Stipulation and Order regarding all outstanding issues concerning attorneys' fees.
- Ghita Schwarz
- Sunita Patel
- Ian Head
Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, Mayer Brown LLP
National Day Laborer Organizing Network
National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) was a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit that forced the U.S. government to release documents about the origins and implementation of the controversial Secure Communities (SCOMM) deportation and fingerprinting program. The disclosed information was used to support NDLON’s campaign to stop the expansion of the program and lobby for its termination as part of comprehensive immigration reform. The case is part of CCR’s long-held commitment to use litigation to support, publicize, and advance struggles for human rights and social justice.
SCOMM began as a pilot program under President George W. Bush, but was vastly expanded by President Obama, over the protests of local and state leaders, contributing to his administration’s record-setting deportation numbers. The program instituted a mechanism to run fingerprints through various databases so that anyone booked into a local jail, regardless of how minor the charges or even if no charges were pressed at all, had their immigration status checked. These checks were performed on presumptively innocent arrestees prior to any conviction. Although Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) presented SCOMM as an innocuous information sharing program, documents uncovered over the course of the litigation revealed the program’s true objectives: to funnel even more people into a quota-driven immigration detention and removal system, and center local law enforcement in the government’s dragnet deportation scheme. Disclosed documents also showed that SCOMM was a key component of the FBI’s ever-expanding Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, which collects and stores personal biometric information on citizens and non-citizens alike. This bio-data includes fingerprints, DNA, a person’s gait and iris scans, facial measurements, and voice recognition.
Revelations from the litigation combined with NDLON’s grassroots organizing galvanized local communities and prompted several governors to publicly seek to opt their states out of the program. In response, the Obama administration reversed its original position that SCOMM was voluntary, and announced that the program was mandatory for all jurisdictions as part of the FBI's broader "Next Generation Identification" data-sharing program.
While President Obama insisted that SCOMM targeted "criminals," internal government records showed otherwise.
The case was settled on July 3, 2013, with the U.S. government agreeing to disclose new data about ICE’s use of immigration detainers. Also known as ICE holds, these detainers seek to hold an individual detained after they are eligible for release, in order to provide immigration agents with time to decide whether to begin a deportation proceeding. Under the agreement, the government was also required to provide records on the contemplated expansion of local law enforcement officials’ power to access federal immigration databases through mobile devices. The case also marked a major victory for open government, setting important precedent on the government’s obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to provide electronic records.
On November 21, 2014, after six years in operation and in response to mounting public pressure, the Obama administration ended SCOMM.