Advocates File Requests for Records Regarding Gang Database Information Sharing Between the US and Foreign Governments


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 17, 2021

Albany, NY – Earlier this week, the Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (I-ARC) and the National Immigration Litigation Assistance (NILA) filed a lawsuit in federal district court under the filed Freedom of Information Act to compel the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of State, and Federal Bureau of Investigation to produce records that will help advocates better understand how the government is sharing information about noncitizens –including information related to alleged criminal histories and gang affiliations—between domestic agencies and with foreign governments, including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The records sought related to the Criminal History Information Program (CHIP), Criminal History Information Sharing (CHIS) program and the Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program (BITMAP).

Over the last four years, I-ARC and other immigrant advocates in New York State have noted with mounting concern an increase in targeting noncitizens based on alleged gang affiliations, particularly on Long Island. Last year, a report released by the New York Immigration Coalition revealed documents showing ICE’s use of gang affiliations as a pretext for the Trump Administration to carry out its immigration enforcement priorities. As a result of these operations, hundreds of young Latin American immigrants from the New York area have been erroneously labeled as gang members in official government documents or databases.

CHIP, CHIS, and BITMAP operate to collect and share information related to the alleged criminal history of noncitizens or those perceived to be noncitizens. When shared with foreign governments and across agencies, the information has dramatic consequences for the individuals subject to the data-collection, both within the United States and, following deportation, in countries participating in those programs.

“The previous White House Administration’s focus on targeting noncitizens for alleged gang affiliations was a thinly-veiled excuse for heavy-handed immigration enforcement operations that terrorized our communities, decimated trust in law enforcement, and resulted in many unjust deportations” said Camille Mackler, Executive Director of I-ARC, a collaborative of over 80 non-profit organizations and professional associations serving immigrants throughout New York. “It is imperative that we understand how and what information is collected and how and with whom it is shared so we can take appropriate steps to ensure that noncitizens are not falsely accused or deported.”

“CHIP, CHIS, and BITMAP operate in the shadows of immigration enforcement,” said Trina Realmuto, NILA’s Executive Director. “Government agencies are accountable to the public and these programs warrant public scrutiny.”

The complaint can be viewed here.

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Media contacts:

Trina Realmuto, National Immigration Litigation Alliance
(617) 819-4447; trina@immigrationlitigation.org

Alexandra Russo, Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative
(518) 813-1595; press@immigrantarc.org

The National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA) is a newly founded immigrants’ rights nonprofit that strives to protect, enforce, and expand the rights of noncitizens and individuals perceived to be noncitizens by engaging in impact litigation and by building the capacity of immigration attorneys to litigate in federal court. NILA seeks to accomplish the later through its co-counseling and strategic assistance programs as well as through publications and presentations. Follow NILA at www.immigrationlitigation.org, on Twitter at @NILA_ImmLit, and on Facebook at NatImmLitAlliance