ICE record systems get Privacy Act exemptions

The Homeland Security Department is exempting two systems that hold immigration-related records from portions of the Privacy Act, thus restricting individuals' access to their records.


The Privacy Act allows agencies to exempt systems from those disclosure requirements when the systems are used for law enforcement purposes.   

The two systems maintain records for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a DHS agency. They will be exempt from some provisions of the Privacy Act due to criminal, civil and administrative enforcement requirements, according to final rules published in the Federal Register. The systems will be exempt from provisions that allow people to access their records and get information about searches and disclosures of those records.

The rules involve ICE’s General Counsel Electronic Management System (GEMS) and Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The exemptions were proposed for those systems in 2006 and 2005, respectively, and no public comments were received on either proposal. Both final rules were published Oct.  23.

SEVIS is designed to maintain information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their host programs along with the schools they attend to ensure the visitors comply with the terms of their admission to the United States. DHS said because that information could pertain to national security or law enforcement, allowing people whose records are in the system to have access to their records would allow them to impede law enforcement and national security efforts.

In the final rule, DHS said the SEVIS exception is a standard national security exemption.

GEMS includes information that ICE attorneys use for court or adjudicative procedures, DHS said GEMS allows ICE attorneys to store all materials related to immigration adjudications and will facilitate the lawyers' work. The rule states that the system will eventually replace the current paper files.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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