Title

Manipulating Risk: Immigration Detention through Automation

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2020

Abstract

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrests more than 500,000 migrants per year and detains more than 350,000 of them through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Since 2012, ICE has relied on an automated Risk Classification Assessment (RCA) system to recommend who to detain and who to release. This article is the first to make that system’s methodology public. While purporting to base these recommendations on indicia of flight risk and risk to public safety, FOIA results unmask an algorithm driven by politics. By linking detention to enforcement priority, rather than risk, the RCA lost its underpinning in the constitution. In addition, compromises in its methodology thwarted the program’s ability to deliver the harm reduction, transparency, and uniformity it promised. Ultimately, our data and analysis reveal that manipulation of the RCA resulted in automated detention recommendations for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in violation of the constitution. The RCA’s fate was not inevitable, however. To limit the harms caused by immigration detention and restore policy and legal norms, DHS’s risk tool must rely on established indicators of flight and dangerousness, its logic should be reevaluated based on outcomes, and its assessments must be subject to review and challenge by immigration judges, advocates, and the people it detains.

Comments

Guide to FOIA Documents on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Risk Classification Assessment for Immigration Detention

FOIA REQUESTS

Requestors Benjamin Casper, Linus Chan, Kate Evans, Robert Koulish, and Mark Noferi asked DHS to release materials concerning its new Risk Classification Assessment system through five targeted requests. Each of those filings, itemizing the categories of documents sought and justifying the basis for their release and the waiver of fees, is available here.

CONSOLIDATED RCA FOIA DOCUMENT RELEASE: 2016-ICLI-00018

This document is a compilation of DHS’s staggered responses to our requests concerning the RCA components, mandatory detention analysis, and special vulnerabilities screening. It includes the RCA’s business rules, training materials, memoranda concerning changes to the RCA, and presentations on its operations and outcomes. These documents were released in response to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and a subsequent settlement agreement.1 Additional documents released in response to the requests for the National RCA Summary Print-outs and the St. Paul RCA Summary Print-outs will be discussed in future publications. The index provides the names and page numbers of each document included in the consolidated FOIA response.

ATP RULES MATRIX v3

This spreadsheet provides the corresponding values relied on by the business rules to generate the RCA’s assessment as to special vulnerability, mandatory detention, public safety risk level, flight risk level, detention/release recommendation, bond recommendation (if any), custody classification level if detained, and community supervision level if released.

COMBINED RCA VIRTUAL UNIVERSITY RELEASE

This document compiles screenshots of the Virtual University training course on the RCA given to all users within DHS.

STIPULATION OF SETTLEMENT AND DISMISSAL & SEARCH VERIFICATION LETTER

The document outlines the terms of the settlement agreement underlying the plaintiffs’ agreement to dismiss the lawsuit. The settlement required defendants to certify that all records responsive to certain categories of our FOIA requests were located and produced so that the absence of certain documents in DHS’s production signified that they did not exist within DHS.

ORIGINAL ICE PRODUCTIONS

This folder contains DHS’ original, incremental, document production with accompanying cover letters that verify the contents and date of each production. All FOIA responses contained in these folders have been consolidated and organized in the above documents for ease of reference.

1 Benjamin Casper, Katherine Evans, and Robert Koulish v. U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., and U.S. Immig. & Customs Enforcement, No. 0:16-cv-00380-ADM-BRT (D. Minn.) (filed Feb. 16, 2016).

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Library of Congress Subject Headings

Emigration and immigration law, Risk assessment

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