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ICE inadvertently discloses personal data online of 6,252 immigrants

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The personal information of thousands of asylum-seekers was mistakenly revealed to the public this week during a routine update of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website. Sensitive personal information of immigrants is supposed to be kept private to protect them from the violence and repression they're fleeing from. An investigation is underway. But for more on what this means, we're joined by Hamed Aleaziz, immigration policy reporter with the LA Times. So what happened here? I mean, how did all this information, personal information, end up on the ICE website?

HAMED ALEAZIZ: This is actually something that ICE, as you mentioned, is investigating. They say this data was erroneously posted on their website, and they've begun the process of trying to, you know, really rectify what happened.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, has anything like this ever happened before?

ALEAZIZ: Not to my knowledge. You know, the scale - more than 6,000 immigrants having their personal information posted on the website like this and especially, like you mentioned, asylum-seekers and others seeking protection in the U.S., having their information being posted is unprecedented as far as I know. This information is really closely guarded. And any time any reporter, especially, you know, myself covering immigration, comes across anybody seeking asylum in the U.S., they're very cautious about the use of their name, where they live and what they're seeking asylum from. So the fact that this was posted is really, you know, staggering.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. I mean, any piece of information is met with - or at least if you ask, it's met with resistance or at least reluctance because any piece of information can be used against them. ICE, have they fixed the problem? Do they know what exactly happened?

ALEAZIZ: They're still investigating, you know, what exactly happened, and they're trying to figure out steps to prevent this. As far as fixing the situation for these individuals, they're contacting the more than 6,000 immigrants, you know, again, notifying them, their attorneys. They're reaching out to people who downloaded the data and actually telling them to delete it. They've said that they will not deport any of these immigrants until they figure out whether or not the disclosure of the data will affect their asylum cases.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So at least there's that. They won't deport them. But, I mean, what does this mean to think overall for the immigrants whose information was exposed? What have now they been exposed to?

ALEAZIZ: We really have to come to see, you know, what happens there. Attorneys, I think, are quite worried about this information getting out there. I was talking to one attorney who found the name of one of their clients on the list, and they were scheduling calls to notify the individual about what happened. You know, all of these individuals are in detention. Their locations of where they are in detention is mentioned in the list. So I can only imagine the surprise the immigrants will have when they realize that their personal information has been posted on the web.

MARTÍNEZ: Has the Biden administration made any statement or responded at all?

ALEAZIZ: No. But, I mean, I will note that, you know, this was pretty quick on ICE's part to not only step in and say that they deleted information, but that extra step of saying they would not deport these individuals until they figured out whether or not the posting of this information would affect their cases is, you know, a pretty strong step. I mean, they're really appearing to take this quite seriously.

MARTÍNEZ: You mentioned this is investigated - at least currently being internally investigated by ICE. Any outside investigation in the works on this?

ALEAZIZ: Unclear. We've reached out to some, you know, congressional committees to see whether or not they're planning any investigations. All of this broke late Wednesday, so it's unclear whether or not any other outside bodies will be investigating what happened here.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Hamed Aleaziz, immigration policy reporter with the Los Angeles Times. Thanks a lot.

ALEAZIZ: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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