Publication Date

October 1, 2018

Perspectives Section


Post Type


The American Historical Association advocates for transparency in the collection and management of governmental records. With reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the US Border Patrol were seeking permission to destroy records, the AHA moved swiftly to oppose the threats. The Association also affirmed its opposition to the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 US Census.

Opposing Threatened Destruction of Immigration Records

In July, the AHA initiated an exchange with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the archivist of the United States over the proposed destruction of US Border Patrol and ICE immigration records, strenuously urging the archives to “deny any request for authorization to permit ICE or the Border Patrol to destroy records related to individuals in their custody.” Within a matter of weeks, NARA responded that ICE will be required to amend the proposed records schedule and to reply to public commentary via public notice in the Federal Register. The AHA will be notified as NARA moves through the review process. The Association joined the National Coalition for History in calling on Congress to ensure that agencies are held accountable for any potential violation of the Federal Records Act.

Letter Concerning Scholarly Standards at Texas Historical Commission

AHA executive director James Grossman issued a letter of concern to the Texas Historical Commission in late August over its unexplained delay in installing a historical marker to commemorate the “Porvenir Massacre” of January 1918. The AHA learned that, following three years of professional scholarship to generate the marker’s narrative, the Presidio County Historical Commission (PCHC) objected to its final production. The AHA urged the PCHC to present its concerns openly for professional investigation.

Continuing Opposition to the US Census Citizenship Question

The AHA reaffirmed president Mary Beth Norton’s letter of March 23 protesting the adoption of a citizenship identification question on the 2020 Census. In August, the AHA joined the efforts of over 25 research organizations in urging the Department of Commerce to remove such a question from the upcoming census, citing concerns over the adverse implications the query would pose for the future accuracy and holistic integrity of critical demographic data.

Endorsing Changes to the National Currency

In August, the AHA sent a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, endorsing the adoption of Harriet Tubman’s image on the $20 Federal Reserve Note. Citing the “deep influence of everyday portrayals of the nation’s past,” and invoking Tubman’s resonant legacy of courageous patriotism, the AHA argued that Harriet Tubman’s inclusion on the currency would be an appropriate symbol of the “ideas and values” embodied in her life and work.

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