Privacy Rights Upheld For Illegal Immigrants

Elliot Jaspin, Washington Post, Sept. 29

Washington—The “privacy interests” of illegal immigrants who have been convicted of felonies in the United States would be compromised if the government released their names and other identifying information, a federal judge has ruled.

Citing court rulings and federal laws aimed at protecting individuals from unwarranted embarrassment or injury, Judge Richard Leon on Tuesday rejected a request from the Washington bureau of Cox Newspapers to release the names of illegal immigrants who are being held, or have been, in U.S. jails. These names are collected by the U.S. Justice Department as part of a program to pay state and local governments for some of the costs of incarcerating criminal immigrants.

Cox Newspapers filed suit against the Justice Department in 2003, seeking the list under the federal Freedom of Information Act after discovering that the federal government frequently neglects to deport illegal immigrants convicted of felonies after they have served their sentences.

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Beyond asserting that criminal immigrants have a right to privacy, Leon did not explain why their privacy outweighed the public interest. “The privacy intrusion associated with disclosing this information,” he wrote in his 11-page opinion, “clearly outweighs the public disclosure of the information.”

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