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National Council of La Raza v. Ashcroft (Challenging inclusion of immigration information in FBI’s NCIC database)

This case involves a challenge to the practice, undertaken by the Department of Justice, of including civil immigration information about non-citizens in the principle criminal database maintained by the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and the claim that this practice violates federal law restricting the content of the NCIC database. Attorney General John Ashcroft and the U.S. Department of Justice have begun entering civil immigration information regarding hundreds of thousands of non-citizens into the FBI’s principle criminal database, the National Crime Information Center (“NCIC”), and unlawfully disseminating that information to state and local police. Although the FBI operates and maintains the database, state and local police officers frequently access the NCIC’s information during everyday encounters with motorists, pedestrians, and other persons. The immigration information now included in the NCIC database includes administrative orders of deportation, exclusion and removal.

In December 2003, the NYCLU and ACLU were among several organizations that filed a joint complaint on behalf of various immigration-advocacy groups. The complaint claimed that this policy has induced state and local police to make federal immigration arrests that Congress has forbidden. The suit seeks to enjoin the defendants from continuing the policy while removing all relevant information from the database. The suit claims that Congress has been quite specific in describing the documents that may be included in the NCIC database, in recognition of the need to guard against the too casual inclusion of names in the criminal database and the recognition that such information is accessible to local police agencies across the country. Administrative immigration orders are not reduced to criminal arrest warrants and, therefore, may not be included in the NCIC database under the terms of federal law.

On Oct. 14, 2005, the court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. Despite the District Court’s earlier denial of the defense motion to dismiss, on Jan. 5, 2007, the District Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court found that, because the plaintiff organizations could not prove that any of their members faced actual injury as a result of the NCIC practices, the plaintiffs did not have the standing to sue. The plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit on March 2, 2007. In their brief, which was filed on June 1, 2007, the plaintiffs asked the Second Circuit to reverse the District Court’s decision and order the District Court to deny the government’s motion to dismiss. 

E.D.N.Y., Index No. 03 Civ. 6324 (ILG/ASC) (direct) 

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