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Since 2013 ICE has used a computer program known as the Risk Classification Assessment Tool in deciding whether someone should be released. ICE feeds information about a person into the system, and an algorithm spits out a recommendation: detention or release on bond. In 2017, ICE manipulated the computer program to get ridof the release option. The program now automatically recommends that all immigrants be detained. An ICE officer reviewing their case has to manually override the recommendation. The impact has been dramatic.

In July 2018, the New York Civil Liberties Union submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to ICE about its changes to the Risk Classification Assessment tool and the outcomes and policies of ICE’s custody determination process. These are essential to understanding the huge and growing number of people detained, which in turn contributes to immigration court backlogs and long detention times. After hearing next to nothing from the agency for months, we took ICE to court in December 2018 to force them to respond.

The decisions about whether people can be released are happening behind a wall of secrecy, with the odds stacked against detained immigrants. The public needs to know more about how ICE makes decisions about whether or not to release people, and why so many who are eligible for release continue to be detained.

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