The National Archives Is Destroying Historical Records Related To ICE

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Under the Trump administration, the National Archives is allowing ICE—and other agencies—to destroy countless records.

Under President Donald Trump, the National Archives is allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to delete and destroy records relating to sexual abuse and the deaths of undocumented immigrants — a move that last year caused significant public outrage.

Columbia University history professor Matthew Connelly offered an update on the situation on Monday, noting in a New York Times op-ed that “the National Archives made some changes to the plan, but last month it announced that ICE could go ahead and start destroying records from Mr. Trump’s first year, including detainees’ complaints about civil rights violations and shoddy medical care.”

The issue with ICE is part of a more widespread problem, however. Connelly pointed out that the “Department of the Interior and the National Archives have decided to delete files on endangered species, offshore drilling inspections and the safety of drinking water,” and “even claimed that papers from a case where it mismanaged Native American land and assets — resulting in a multibillion-dollar legal settlement — would be of no interest to future historians (or anyone else).”

Similar issues have occurred with the under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and environment and other agencies as well.

Connelly said that while the Trump administration appears to be taking full advantage of the situation, record-keeping has been under assault for decades, and in recent years Congress has repeatedly ignored warnings that the archival systems are “antiquated and unreliable,” choosing instead to cut funding for the National Archives.

“The number of data records has gone from fewer than 13 million to more than 21 billion,” Connelly wrote. “But the National Archives has fewer employees now than it did then. Adjusted for inflation, it has a smaller budget than it did a decade ago, and Congress has cut that budget every year for the last three years.”

Given the current state of the government’s record-keeping mechanisms, it is highly unlikely that Americans will ever know the truth about ICE — and many other elements of the federal government’s actions.

He closed by noting that one thing is abundantly clear: “When politicians, caught committing malfeasance, claim that they will let future historians judge, you can’t possibly believe them.”

Read the full op-ed.

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