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Privacy Act of 1974: Implementation of Exemptions; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) General Counsel Electronic Management System (GEMS)

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Privacy Office, DHS.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

The Department of Homeland Security is issuing a final rule to amend its regulations to exempt portions of a new system of records entitled the “Immigration and Customs Enforcement General Counsel Electronic Management System” (GEMS) from certain provisions of the Privacy Act. Specifically, the Department exempts portions of the GEMS system from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act because of criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement requirements.

DATES:

Effective Date: This final rule is effective October 23, 2008.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Lyn Rahilly, Privacy Officer, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 425 I Street, NW., Washington, DC 20536, e-mail: ICEPrivacy@dhs.gov, or Hugo Teufel III (703-235-0780), Chief Privacy Officer, Privacy Office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC 20528.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register, 71 FR 16519, April 3, 2006, proposing to exempt portions of the system of records from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act because of criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement requirements. The system of records is the ICE General Counsel Electronic Management System (GEMS). The GEMS system of records notice (SORN) was published in the Federal Register, 71 FR 16326, March 31, 2006. Comments were invited on both the proposed rule and SORN. No comments were received from the public regarding either the SORN or the proposed rule. Therefore, no changes have been made to the rule or the SORN, and DHS is implementing the final rule as published.

DHS is claiming exemption from certain requirements of the Privacy Act Start Printed Page 63059for GEMS because the system will consist of information that is created or acquired and used by ICE attorneys working on the preparation and presentation of cases for a court or adjudicative body before which ICE or DHS is authorized or required to appear. Attorneys for the Department of Justice will also be able to access the system if they have a need for the information in the performance of their official duties.

ICE attorneys work closely with investigators throughout the process of adjudicating immigration cases. ICE attorneys must have access to investigative documents and related materials in order to form their decisions about how to handle particular cases.

Additionally, ICE attorneys create attorney work product associated with immigration proceedings. The GEMS system will facilitate the collection and maintenance of materials used by ICE attorneys in immigration adjudications. It will supplement and ultimately replace the current attorney work product paper files that are primarily stored and managed in the hardcopy alien file commonly known as the “A-file.”

In this final rule, DHS is exempting this system, in part, from certain provisions of the Privacy Act and adding that exemption to Appendix C to Part 5, DHS Systems of Records.

Pursuant to the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601-612, DHS certifies that these regulations will not significantly affect a substantial number of small entities. The final rule imposes no duties or obligations on small entities. Further, in accordance with the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44 U.S.C. 3501, DHS has determined that this final rule would not impose new record keeping, application, reporting, or other types of information collection requirements.

Regulatory Requirements

A. Regulatory Impact Analyses

Changes to Federal regulations must undergo several analyses. In conducting these analyses, DHS has determined:

1. Executive Order 12866 Assessment

This rule is not a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866, “Regulatory Planning and Review” (as amended). Accordingly, this rule has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Nevertheless, DHS has reviewed this rulemaking, and concluded that there will not be any significant economic impact.

2. Regulatory Flexibility Act Assessment

Pursuant to section 605 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 605(b), as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA), DHS certifies that this rule will not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. The rule would impose no duties or obligations on small entities. Further, the exemptions to the Privacy Act apply to individuals, and individuals are not covered entities under the RFA.

3. International Trade Impact Assessment

This rulemaking will not constitute a barrier to international trade. The exemptions relate to investigations of violations of civil or criminal laws and, therefore, do not create any new costs or barriers to trade.

4. Unfunded Mandates Assessment

Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA), (Pub. L. 104-4, 109 Stat. 48), requires Federal agencies to assess the effects of certain regulatory actions on State, local, and tribal governments, and the private sector. This rulemaking will not impose an unfunded mandate on State, local, or tribal governments, or on the private sector.

B. Paperwork Reduction Act

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) requires that DHS consider the impact of paperwork and other information collection burdens imposed on the public and, under the provisions of PRA section 3507(d), obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for each collection of information it conducts, sponsors, or requires through regulations. DHS has determined that there are no current or new information collection requirements associated with this rule.

C. Executive Order 13132, Federalism

This action will not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between the national Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government, and therefore will not have federalism implications.

D. Environmental Analysis

DHS has reviewed this action for purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347) and has determined that this action will not have a significant effect on the human environment.

E. Energy Impact

The energy impact of this action has been assessed in accordance with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) Public Law 94-163, as amended (42 U.S.C. 6362). This rulemaking is not a major regulatory action under the provisions of the EPCA.

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List of Subjects in 6 CFR Part 5

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For the reasons stated in the preamble, DHS amends Chapter I of Title 6, Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:

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PART 5—DISCLOSURE OF RECORDS AND INFORMATION

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1. The authority citation for part 5 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: Pub. L. 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135, 6 U.S.C. 101 et seq.; 5 U.S.C. 301. Subpart A also issued under 5 U.S.C. 552.

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2. At the end of Appendix C to Part 5, add the following new paragraph 11 to read as follows:

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Appendix C to Part 5—DHS Systems of Records Exempt From the Privacy Act

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11. The General Counsel Electronic Management System (GEMS) consists of records and information created or collected by attorneys for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will be used in the preparation and presentation of cases before a court or other adjudicative body. ICE attorneys work closely with ICE law enforcement personnel throughout the process of adjudicating immigration cases. GEMS allows ICE attorneys to store all the materials pertaining to immigration adjudications, including documents related to investigations, case notes and other hearing related information, and briefs and memoranda of law related to cases. Having this information in one system should not only facilitate the work of the ICE attorneys involved in the particular case, but also will provide a legal resource for other attorneys who are adjudicating similar cases. The system will also provide management capabilities for tracking time and effort expended in the preparation and presentation of cases. Pursuant to exemptions 5 U.S.C. 552a(j)(2) of the Privacy Act, portions of this system are exempt from 5 U.S.C. 552a(c)(3) and (4); (d); (e)(1), (e)(2), (e)(3), (e)(4)(G), (e)(4)(H), (e)(5) and (e)(8); (f)(2) through (5); and (g). Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a (k)(1) and (k)(2), this system is exempt from the following provisions of the Privacy Act, subject to the limitations set forth in those subsections: 5 U.S.C. 552a (c)(3), (d), (e)(1), (e)(4)(G), (e)(4)(H), and (f). Exemptions from these particular subsections are justified, on a case-by-case basis to be determined at the time a request is made, for the following reasons:

(a) From subsection (c)(3) (Accounting for Disclosures) because release of the accounting of disclosures could alert the Start Printed Page 63060subject of an investigation of an actual or potential criminal, civil, or regulatory violation, to the existence of the investigation, which in some cases may be classified, and reveal investigative interest on the part of DHS or ICE. Disclosure of the accounting would therefore present a serious impediment to law enforcement efforts and/or efforts to preserve national security. Disclosure of the accounting would also permit the individual who is the subject of a record to impede the investigation, tamper with witnesses or evidence, and avoid detection or apprehension, which would undermine the entire investigative process.

(b) From subsection (d) (Access to Records) because access to the records contained in this system of records could inform the subject of an investigation pertaining to an immigration matter, which in some cases may be classified, and prematurely reveal investigative interest on the part of DHS or another agency. Access to the records could permit the individual who is the subject of a record to impede the investigation, tamper with witnesses or evidence, and avoid detection or apprehension. Amendment of the records could interfere with ongoing investigations and law enforcement activities and would impose an impossible administrative burden by requiring investigations to be continuously reinvestigated. In addition, permitting access and amendment to such information could disclose security-sensitive information that could be detrimental to homeland security.

(c) From subsection (e)(1) (Relevancy and Necessity of Information) because in the course of investigations into potential violations of federal immigration law, the accuracy of information obtained or introduced occasionally may be unclear or the information may not be strictly relevant or necessary to a specific investigation. In the interests of effective law enforcement and for the protection of national security, it is appropriate to retain all information that may aid in establishing patterns of unlawful activity.

(d) From subsection (e)(2) (Collection of Information from Individuals) because requiring that information be collected from the subject of an investigation would alert the subject of the nature or existence of an investigation, which could cause interference with the investigation, a related inquiry or other law enforcement activities, some of which may be classified.

(e) From subsection (e)(3) (Notice to Subjects) because providing such detailed information would impede law enforcement in that it could compromise the existence of a confidential investigation or reveal the identity of witnesses or confidential informants.

(f) From subsections (e)(4)(G) and (H) (Agency Requirements), (f) (Agency Rules), and (g) (Civil Remedies) because portions of this system are exempt from the individual access provisions of subsection (d).

(g) From subsection (e)(5) (Collection of Information) because in the collection of information for law enforcement purposes it is impossible to determine in advance what information is accurate, relevant, timely, and complete.

(h) From subsection (e)(8) (Notice on Individuals) because compliance would interfere with ICE's ability to obtain, serve, and issue subpoenas, warrants and other law enforcement mechanisms that may be filed under seal, and could result in disclosure of investigative techniques, procedures, and evidence.

(i) From subsection (g) to the extent that the system is exempt from other specific subsections of the Privacy Act.

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Hugo Teufel III,

Chief Privacy Officer, Department of Homeland Security.

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[FR Doc. E8-24996 Filed 10-22-08; 8:45 am]

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