For Immediate Release:
January 10, 2012
Susan B. Long, TRAC (315) 443-3563
David Burnham, TRAC (202) 518-9000
  TRAC's Press Release of January 4, 2012
  ICE Reponse to TRAC's Press Release of January 4, 2012
  TRAC's Request to OGIS for Clarification
  OGIS Response
  Help Support TRAC's FOIA Efforts
  Other TRAC FOIA Activities

ICE Continues to Stonewall on Immigration Enforcement Data

Re: Agency's Immigration Enforcement Claims Not Supported By Own Data

Syracuse, N.Y. — On January 4 the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) appealed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) concerning its response to TRAC's previous request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for case-by-case information covering all individuals who had been arrested, detained, charged, or deported from the country since FY 2005 (see TRAC's January 4 statement).

In our FOIA appeal, TRAC asked the agency to provide all of the information we had requested almost two years before and noted that what ICE had produced showed that many fewer individuals had been apprehended, deported or detained by the agency than had been claimed in its official statements. While not expressing an opinion about whether the discrepancies meant that ICE's public claims were grossly exaggerated or that it had improperly withheld records, we requested a formal investigation be instituted, perhaps by the Office of Inspector General.

On January 6, we received ICE's highly critical statement attacking Syracuse University's TRAC and the facts laid out in our appeal.

ICE's statement — while couched as criticisms of TRAC's "intellectual integrity" — did in essence acknowledge that TRAC's analysis was correct: the data released by the agency accounted for far fewer apprehensions than the agency stated it had carried out. That statement, however, did not explain why ICE's FOIA Office had earlier claimed that data to be complete. And ICE has not yet released the alleged missing data for the period in question. Thus, the public is still in the dark as to whether the agency actually has records that would back up its claims1.

Getting the Facts Straight

ICE's statement also alleged that TRAC had demonstrated "unwillingness to engage with agency officials and statisticians in serious discussions about the agency's data tracking protocols and systems," and that TRAC was wrong when we said we had asked OGIS for assistance in mediating the case. In the version presented by ICE, it had been the agency that had "reached out to OGIS for assistance in mediating discussions with TRAC." [OGIS is the Office of Government Information Services in the National Archives and Records Administration; OGIS is commonly referred to as the "FOIA ombudsman."]

Upon receipt of ICE's statement, we contacted OGIS to ask them about these allegations. As shown below, it appears it is ICE that seems to have trouble keeping its facts straight.

First, TRAC asked OGIS whether it had been TRAC that approached OGIS for mediation help on this FOIA request (ICE 2010FOIA4313; OGIS Case No. 2011-0102). In the email response we received, Kirsten B. Mitchell — the OGIS facilitator assigned the case — stated:

"The answer to your first question is yes, TRAC initiated OGIS Case No. 2011-0102."

Second, we asked whether OGIS was aware of any occasion where TRAC had been unwilling to discuss with ICE officials or ICE statisticians the agency's data tracking protocols or systems? Facilitator Mitchell's response to that question was:

"The answer to your second question is no, TRAC always expressed a willingness to discuss the details of this case with ICE."

OGIS also confirmed that it was ICE's continuing request that TRAC not talk with ICE directly but only through OGIS as the intermediary. Facilitator Mitchell confirmed this, stating:

"ICE preferred that OGIS serve as a facilitator for communication with TRAC."

1TRAC had in fact given the ICE Public Affairs office a heads-up on our January 4 announcement. The Public Affairs office then asked TRAC to explain the methodology we used and asked us to provide them a copy of the data. We promptly provided a written explanation of our methodology, offered to answer any further questions they might have, and emailed them the files we had received from the ICE FOIA office. We also suggested they could also get the data from their own FOIA office and put them in contact with the person handling our FOIA request there. Despite all of this, ICE's statement allegedly describing why the data are incomplete — that it was limited to individuals actually removed — isn't the least bit consistent with the actual data TRAC received. In the actual data set ICE sent us, the vast majority of individuals apprehended in FY 2005 had not been removed. So ICE's latest statement doesn't accord with the facts about their actual data either.