Twenty-one pseudonymous asylum seekers have filed a proposed class action in which they allege federal officials have illegally published the private data of thousands in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody on the agency’s public-facing website.
The 33-page lawsuit says that the data, allegedly uploaded to ICE.gov in late November 2022, of more than 6,200 asylum-seeking noncitizens, many of whom came to the U.S. “fleeing torture or persecution in their countries of origin,” included names, countries of origin, dates of birth, A-numbers and detention locations. Per the suit, some of the asylum seekers have already had their claims adjudicated, while others’ are pending, and some have not yet submitted their applications.
Want to stay in the loop on class actions that matter to you? Sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.
The plaintiffs contend that the actions of the defendants—Acting ICE Director Tae D. Johnson, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Attorney General Merrick Garland and a currently unknown “John Doe” defendant accused of uploading the sensitive data—put affected noncitizens in, or formerly in, ICE custody in danger, today and in the future.
“Many of them came to the United States to flee gang violence, government retaliation, and persecution on the basis of protected grounds,” the filing stresses, relaying the posted information was able to be “downloaded, copied, captured by screenshot, and otherwise preserved by the public.”
According to the case, the asylum seekers’ data remained visible on ICE.gov for roughly five hours until advocacy group Human Rights First sounded the alarm about the breach. Thereafter, ICE posted to its website a notice stating that the release of the information was “a breach of policy,” and that the incident was being investigated, the suit says.
The unlawful disclosure of asylum seekers’ confidential information on a webpage where ICE regularly posts detention statistics has the “concerning impact” of deterring some from seeking protection in this country in the future, the lawsuit continues, claiming this deterrence “undermines the United States’ capacity to provide protection” for those seeking asylum.
Per the case, Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by the United States, declares that “everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
The lawsuit asks the court to extend the accommodations of the plaintiffs and similarly situated individuals such that their asylum and withholding claims can be considered or reconsidered in the wake of the alleged ICE data breach. The case also asks the court to grant each plaintiff and similarly situated individual $10,000 under the Privacy Act of 1974, and compensatory and punitive damages of $5,000 each.
The suit looks to cover all 6,252 noncitizens whose personal data was published on ICE.gov on November 28, 2022.
Get class action lawsuit news sent to your inbox – sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.
Camp Lejeune residents now have the opportunity to claim compensation for harm suffered from contaminated water.