TAR HEEL VIEW: Immigration busts deserve transparency

President Trump’s aggressive executive order on unauthorized immigrants is controversial, to say the least. But there may be one thing about it on which some in this fight can agree: The public needs full transparency on the program. As it is now, people are being rounded up and we don’t even have their names.

According to the order signed recently by Trump targeting immigrants living in the United States without permission, ICE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — may be compelled to provide more information about detainees. But there’s a long way to go.

ICE detained 190 people in the Carolinas and Georgia last week, it announced — 84 of them in North Carolina, the Journal’s Bertrand M. Gutiérrez reported last week.

Gutiérrez contacted ICE twice to obtain information about the 84, including their names, age, gender, criminal offense, residence and location of detainment, and was rebuffed both times, despite the executive order.

“ICE is currently determining how to best implement policies and guidance to carry out the Executive Order, which includes modifying ICE’s existing privacy policy,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said in an email to the Journal.

We realize there may be a little confusion when a new order is first implemented, but those kinks should be worked out quickly.

The executive order says, “Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information.”

In other words, foreign detainees have no privacy protections, so the press should be able to access their names and personal data. This could provide the press and the rest of the public with crucial information.

“The only silver lining here is that Trump’s executive order promises unprecedented transparency of immigration enforcement,” Bryan Johnson, a New York immigration lawyer, told the Journal.

The public needs all the information the law allows to evaluate Trump’s immigration policy. As it stands now, there is much confusion.

One detainee, Bunluoen “Curly” Phayrin, a legal permanent resident and green card holder, is currently being held by ICE, his lawyer, Tin Nguyen, told the Journal.

“I think apprehending a green card holder who has been here since 1979 and has a 30-year conviction when he was 17 years old is not the best use of governmental resources to keep the general public safe,” Nguyen said.

“According to President Trump, he wants to get the ‘bad hombres,’” Susan Long, the co-director of Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, told the Journal. “Is that what’s really happening here?”

Most would agree that ICE resources should, as Trump has said, concentrate on people who are threats to our communities. But to make sure those people are targeted, and not those, for example, with green cards and families, we need transparency. Anything else fails public safety and us, the taxpaying public.

— The Winston-Salem Journal