DENVER (AP) — Immigration and customs officials violated federal law by refusing to release documents about people who are not citizens, a Colorado federal court judge said.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement used the rule to deny the release of records at least 333 times between July 2017 and April 2019, The Denver Post reports.
The court ordered ICE to change its nationwide standard operating procedure and comply with the Freedom of Information Act.
The case started in 2013 in Glenwood Springs when attorney Jennifer Smith requested documents about her client, but ICE refused to release them because the client was deemed a fugitive, authorities said.
Releasing the documents could help people evade immigration enforcement, ICE officials said.
Smith believed there was not a lawful reason to withhold documents and she appealed two years after receiving the denial and filed a lawsuit in 2016, she said.
Smith received the documents shortly after filing the lawsuit, but she and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado continued the case, she said.
ICE officials can no longer impede attorneys from advocating for their clients by refusing to disclose documents they are entitled to by law, ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein said.