Immigration and Customs Enforcement wants us to trust them. Since Friday, Feb. 22, ICE has released 2,000-plus detainees nationwide in anticipation of budget cuts connected to the sequester - 302 of the releases in Arizona. The detainees released were not dangerous, the agency says, and that may be so.
They need to show, not tell.
But this is the Department of Homeland Security we're talking about. As I've been reporting, transparency is not their strong suit.
So of course, they have declined so far to release any details about the individuals released. No names, no criminal histories, no security classifications.
In a statement, ICE said: "The detainees who've been released can be characterized as low-risk offenders who do not have serious criminal histories that would subject them to mandatory detention. Detainees with serious criminal histories are a detention priority and have not been released."
Outside Arizona, they haven't even detailed how many detainees were released in a given state.
Their justification of the decision not to say more is not very convincing.
ICE spokesman Brian Hale emailed me Friday with a statement of the department's reasoning for not revealing the names and backgrounds of the detainees ICE released. The statement cites exemption 7(c) of the Freedom of Information Act, "which allows agencies to withhold the names and other identifying information of persons identified in law enforcement records."
That exemption is broad, but according to a Justice Department guide on it, 7(c) applies primarily to third parties listed in reports that are about somebody else. Here, we're talking about the arrestees themselves, not third parties.
The ICE explanation goes on to say that they must consider the arrestees' privacy interest in not having their names revealed. The statement says there is no "identified public interest" in disclosing the names or other individual information.
I hardly think this needs to be said, but there is a clear public interest in knowing whether those released had histories of criminal behavior, and if so, what kind of crimes were committed.
I tend to believe that ICE would not be so reckless as to release detainees who are truly dangerous. That would make no sense, political or practical. Not to mention, in Arizona those released represented only about 13 percent of the immigration detainees in the state.
Lindsay Marshall, executive director of the Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project, also reassured me about these detainees.
"The overwhelming majority of the people we work with have ties to the U.S.; they have children here, they have homes here, they have jobs here, and they will show up at court," she said.
But faith only goes so far. By failing to be transparent, ICE has opened the door to a resurgence of Arizona's trademark alarmism on illegal immigration.
In a Tuesday statement, Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County said, "President Obama would never release 500 criminal illegals to the streets of his hometown, yet he has no problem with releasing them in Arizona."
By Friday, Gov. Jan Brewer had found her voice, telling Fox News about the releases, "I personally believe that it could be payback. Punish Arizona, make them squirm."
These accusations are undercut by the fact that at most 15 percent of the releases took place in Arizona - all from detention centers in Pinal County. And we simply don't know if those released committed any crime other than being in the country illegally, so the implication of the phrase "criminal illegal" is presumptuous.
Yet Babeu and Brewer, two Republicans I rarely agree with about anything to do with immigration, are correct in their demand for information.
Babeu wrote in a Thursday letter to Napolitano: "Protocol and logic should have required your staff to formally notify me, as the top law enforcement official in the county where this occurred, about this mass release of hundreds of foreign criminals into my county and elsewhere."
The gratuitously provocative phrase "foreign criminals" aside, I agree.
Babeu's office has determined that between Friday, Feb. 22, and Monday, Feb. 25, ICE took custody of 78 inmates being held for that agency in the Pinal County jail. Of those, 46 were classified as "low" on the ICE security scale. Ten were "medium low," 15 were "medium high" and seven were "high."
ICE reported that it released 51 of those 78 for budget reasons, but it did not say which 51, even by security classification.
So in the end, the DHS agency is still asking for us to trust them.
Contact columnist Tim Steller at email@example.com or 807-8427. On Twitter @senyorreporter