U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Wednesday the personal information of more than 6,000 people in its custody was inadvertently posted on its website for about five hours.
The information included names, nationalities, detention centers where the people were held and unique numbers used to identify them in government records, according to Human Rights First, an advocacy group that discovered the leak on Monday.
The 6,252 people whose identities have been revealed have expressed fear of persecution if the courts refuse their offer to stay in the United States and are sent home, according to Human Rights First.
Eleanor Acer, the group’s senior director for refugee protection, said she feared the detainees or their families could be at risk in their home countries.
“In some countries, people are being targeted, retaliated against for seeking asylum,” Acer said.
ICE said an Excel spreadsheet was mistakenly released “while performing routine updates” and the agency removed the information from its public website 11 minutes after being notified.
“While unintentional, this release of information is a violation of policy and the agency is investigating the incident and taking any necessary corrective action,” the agency said in a statement.
ICE said it is notifying detainees or their attorneys of the leak, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times. This will allow them to determine whether this affects the merits of their asylum claim.