|For Immediate Release:
May 19, 2014
Susan B. Long, TRAC (315) 443-3563
David Burnham, TRAC (202) 518-9000
David L. Sobel (202) 246-6180
|Full Text of Complaint (via FOIAProject.org)|
|Help Support TRAC's FOIA Efforts|
|Other TRAC FOIA Activities|
Syracuse, NY, May 19 — The co-directors of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University have filed suit charging ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with multiple violations of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Administrative Practices Act and the administrative rules of both agencies.
The effect of the unlawful and arbitrary actions by the agencies is to deny the public the records it requires to better understand how the government's massive effort to regulate immigration is actually functioning.
One of TRAC's co-directors is Susan B. Long, an associate professor of managerial statistics at the University's Martin J. Whitman School of Management. The other is David Burnham, a long-term investigative reporter with the New York Times who now is an associate research professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at the University.
The suit filed by Long and Burnham in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday follows up on a court action filed against ICE and the Customs and Border Protection (CPB) on February 3 on a different but related withholding matter.
Last week's lawsuit challenges ICE's recent decision that when TRAC's co-directors were seeking data on how the agency was enforcing immigration laws, they were not acting on behalf of an educational institution operating a program of scholarly research, nor were they acting as representatives of the news media seeking to inform the public about agency activities. Instead the agency claims they were seeking records to further a commercial trade for profit.
For more than 25 years, Long and Burnham as co-directors of TRAC — a part of Syracuse University — have provided news organizations, academic groups, Congress and the government itself with reports and data about a wide range of long-hidden government activities. TRAC maintains a website at http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/ where the results of its research and reporting on immigration enforcement are made widely and publicly available. Neither TRAC nor its co-directors have ever sought ICE records for a commercial purpose. TRAC's co-directors derive no personal income from their immigration research and reporting apart from their regular salary as Syracuse University professors.
By incorrectly categorizing TRAC as "commercial" the government erects a major cost hurdle, blocking the public dissemination of records that are required by the FOIA and other laws to be made public. The FOIA mandates that educational and media requesters can only be charged duplication fees. However, when records are being sought for a commercial profit-making purpose, then the requester can also be required to pay for the time taken to search for the records and review them, in addition to copying fees.
TRAC's still-pending February suit asks the court to order the government to make public an array of information, including a comprehensive directory of the information collected about all immigration investigations and enforcement activities, along with data extracts from several ICE and CBP data repositories. That suit was made on a pro bono basis by Jehan A. Patterson and Scott L. Nelson of the Public Citizen Litigation Group.
For this suit, TRAC is being represented on a pro bono basis by David L. Sobel.