SAA’s Non-Statement on the Destruction of ICE Records

This is SAA’s non-statement on the destruction of ICE records, and here’s why it’s problematic. A letter to SAA leadership (which I did send):

Letter:

I am disappointed in SAA’s decision to “not comment” regarding the destruction of ICE records. Link to statement: https://connect.archivists.org/communities/community-home/digestviewer/viewthread?MessageKey=eee5b475-51a3-4a98-a06c-326b90c6926b&CommunityKey=3f130ed5-241d-4380-9775-eb85a8ea2cd0&tab=digestviewer#bmeee5b475-51a3-4a98-a06c-326b90c6926b

Given the decision that this would be SAA’s stance I will not continue this email to provide you with arguments as to why I believe this to be deeply troublesome.

Instead, I want to alert you to where you’re opening yourselves up for future trouble. At the end of SAA’s statement, this is said:

“The Executive Committee’s discussion was informed by SAA member Brad Houston’s nuanced review of these complex records issues. (Houston is the City Records Officer, City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.)”

SAA is stating that it received and used an informal blog post by one person to inform their decision. That, in and of itself, is concerning. I would think a group of outside experts to compile an official report would’ve been more prudent and professional.

Upon reading his informal opinion, given September 2017, I found several additional issues that go beyond the immediate disagreement with SAA’s decision:

1. The information and SAA’s decision is dated (September 2017), and now ICE’s recent actions have brought about a humanitarian crisis. I believe the original foundation of SAA’s and our understanding of this issue has altered. As Brad admits himself in his posts, he is not an expert in the “Human Rights” area and couldn’t provide much in professional opinion.

2. Brad’s language is extremely problematic. In his first post (https://concernedarchivists.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/and-now-the-ice-kerfluffle-records-management-style/) he takes a snarky tone of “you need to calm down.” And continues to belittle and demean concern by using phrases like “step-back”, “getting one’s hackles up”, and “As stated above, the ACLU and similar activist groups arguably exist to get into a frenzy on issues like this.” The way it comes across (and arguably, how it was meant to come across) is a cis white man gaslighting us to convince us to believe nothing’s wrong here, it’s all in our heads, and we just need to calm down. I’m sure you recognize the deep psychological issue of being told to calm down on something that concerns us.

3. In Brad’s first post he states that ACLU’s August 2017 statement didn’t point to much evidence to justify (in his mind) their concern. And pointed out other (in his mind) comparable areas of how long records are kept.

“as an information professional I would want to know about this in order to determine if ICE’s request is wildly out of step with best practices. Information found elsewhere suggests this may be the case—DoD retains its records of sexual assaults vs. detainees for a minimum of *50 years*, for example, suggesting ICE may be overly aggressive in its request.”

Here, he lightly admits that ACLU may actually have a point, and states ICE may be overly aggressive in their request. Given the current administration’s actions in the last 30 days, I state again that SAA, Brad’s and our understanding of the situation has altered. These ICE detention centers are being identified as internment camps. So let’s look at how long internment camp records are held. Those records (https://www.archives.gov/research/japanese-americans/internment-intro) have just hit 70 years at NARA and are still being kept. I’d like to see a comparative analysis that is equitable to the current situation – a polite word for humanitarian crisis.

So I ask for SAA leadership to do better. Solicit and analyze more recent information and compare it with more equitable examples. And, have more than NARA’s position (hardly neutral) and one white male with “tongue and cheek” opinions on a blog inform your official stance.

Image: Two Children of the Mochida Family, with Their Parents, Awaiting Evacuation Bus

Original Caption: Hayward, California. Two children of the Mochida family who, with their parents, are awaiting evacuation bus. The youngster on the right holds a sandwich given her by one of a group of women who were present from a local church. The family unit is kept intact during evacuation and at War Relocation Authority centers where evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed for the duration.

U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: NWDNS-210-G-C155

From: Series: Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority, compiled 1942 – 1945 (Record Group 210)

Created by: Department of the Interior. War Relocation Authority. (02/16/1944 – 06/30/1946)

Production Date: 05/08/1942

Photographer: Lange, Dorothea, 1895-1965

Persistent URL: research.archives.gov/description/537507

Repository: Still Pictures Unit at the National Archives at College Park (College Park, MD)

For information about ordering reproductions of photographs held by the U.S. National Archives’ Still Picture Unit, visit: www.archives.gov/research/order/still-pictures.html.

Reproductions may be ordered via an independent vendor. The U.S. National Archives maintains a list of vendors at www.archives.gov/research/order/vendors-photos-maps-dc.html.

Access Restrictions: Unrestricted

Use Restrictions: Unrestricted

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