Department of Homeland Security officials (DHS) rejected an official request for information about illegal immigrants arrested and deported in California, citing the privacy rights of the deportees, even though that information would be publicly available if the criminals were American citizens.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., suggested that officials under President Obama had blocked the information for political appointees.

“It’s indefensible that criminal illegal aliens are being given privacy rights that arrested U.S. citizens might not receive,” Issa said in a statement to the North County Times (Calif.). “The Department of Homeland Security’s FOIA operation has been plagued with interference from Obama administration political appointees, and I am concerned that their involvement may have contributed to the inadequate response to this legitimate request for information.”

Officials in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a DHS agency, claim to have deported hundreds of illegal immigrants with criminal records through a partnership with local law enforcement called Operation Joint Effort. ICE declined a Freedom of Information Act request from the Times for information that would back up those claims — such as names, dates of birth, and charges filed against the deportees that would be available if the person charged with a crime were a citizen of California.

“The (Freedom of Information Act) protects records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes that could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” ICE wrote to the newspaper. “This exemption takes particular note of the strong interests of individuals, whether they are suspects, witnesses, or investigators in not being unwarrantably associated with alleged criminal activity.”

ICE’s policy apparently gives criminal, deported illegal immigrants broader privacy rights than those enjoyed by American citizens. “That kind of information is readily available to the public under state law for any individual who is arrested by a local police department,” the Times explains.