As per SHAFR's by-laws, under Article IX, section B, SHAFR may take a public stand on an issue that has received a 2/3 majority vote of Council (with 80% of Council members voting) provided that a simple majority of the full membership of SHAFR approves such a motion (with at least 30% of the membership voting electronically within a period of seven calendar days).
Yesterday Council unanimously approved (14-0-0) forwarding the following resolution to the membership for its consideration:
SHAFR's Council has unanimously approved the recommendation of its Historical Documentation Committee (HDC) to partner with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in bringing a legal challenge against the records disposition schedule recently approved by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The disposition schedule that NARA approved authorizes the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) to designate as temporary and thus ultimately destroy various categories of records concerning migrant detainees, including records documenting complaints of civil rights violations, sexual abuse, and shoddy medical care, among other things.
Upon recommendation of the HDC, SHAFR last year partnered with the National Security Archive and CREW, a nonpartisan US government ethics and accountability watchdog organization founded in 2003 in a lawsuit against President Trump, White House officials, Secretary of State Pompeo, and the State Department for violations of the Presidential and Federal Records Acts. The HDC is equally strong in its opinion that SHAFR should again partner with CREW in challenging NARA over its ICE records disposition schedule.
NARA did follow procedures by submitting the disposition for the ICE records for public comment, and it did modify the schedule after receiving those comments. But the modifications were minor and essentially dismissed those comments by many historians who explained the extent to which the destruction of the records would do irreparable harm to producing reliable immigration history by degrading the archival record. NARA’s dismissal of these comments without explanation violates the Administrative Procedures Act that mandates “reasoned decision-making.”
The records disposition schedule also violates legislation that requires an agency to adhere to its own policies. NARA’s policies stipulate that certain types of records must be designated as permanent. Yet the disposition schedule for the ICE records designates precisely these kinds of records as temporary and thus targeted for destruction. Once again, NARA offered no explanation.
Accompanying the lawsuit will be a request for an injunction that will prevent the destruction of records while the legal challenge is being adjudicated.
In light of SHAFR’s interests in the creation and preservation of such records, SHAFR Council asks the membership to empower the Council, on a 2/3rds vote in favor with at least 80% of Council members voting, to take a public stand by joining this lawsuit. No financial expense is anticipated.