In a security breach with potentially deadly consequences, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) posted the personal information of more than 6,252 immigrants who came to the U.S. to flee persecution from countries including Iran, Russia and China, according to a Wednesday report.
The information included birthdays, nationalities, case numbers and detention locations — all posted publicly on the ICE website Monday.
If the information falls into the wrong hands, those whose details were posted could be in danger of retaliation from the governments they had fled from, the Los Angeles Times warned.
All of the people listed are currently in ICE custody, but their information is meant to be confidential while their cases are being decided.
Typically when asylum seekers are detained by ICE it is for a period of a few days while their claim is evaluated. If the person is deemed to have a valid reason for asylum they will be allowed to stay in the US while it is processed; if not they are sent back to their home country.
An ICE official told the LA Times the agency is concerned about the data posted, which was done by mistake during a website update. The agency is asking those who downloaded the information to delete it.
Federal regulation disallows the release of such personal information without approval from high-up Department of Homeland Security officials, the paper said.
“Though unintentional, this release of information is a breach of policy and the agency is investigating the incident and taking all corrective actions necessary,” an ICE spokesperson told the paper.
The breach was discovered by an immigrant advocacy group, which then alerted ICE about their mistake. The info was up for about five hours, the LA Times said.
“We are deeply concerned about our client’s safety after ICE publicly shared this very sensitive information about her and thousands of others like her,” managing attorney of the National Immigrant Justice Center Diana Rashid said after discovering one of her clients was on the list.
“She is seeking protection from removal because she fears persecution if returned to her country of origin. Revealing this information makes her more vulnerable to the persecution and abuses she fears if deported.”
ICE said it will notify affected immigrants of the data breach and will not deport anyone while it evaluates if the leaked data affects their cases.