Research Group Finds Issues With Justice Department Immigration Data Reports

IMMIGRATION COURT DATA released by the Department of Justice has contained “gross irregularities” and the agency appears to have “silently but systematically” deleted nearly a million records, a nonprofit research organization said in a report accusing the agency of mishandling data it releases to the public.

Those issues could have grave implications because policymakers, judges and the public rely on the data to make decisions, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan research center housed at Syracuse University, said in the report released Thursday.

Through ongoing Freedom of Information Act requests, TRAC routinely receives from the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the U.S. immigration court system. The research group is well-respected among policymakers, reporters and researchers, and it frequently publishes data analysis and reports on several topics, including immigration.

TRAC said it noticed discrepancies in data it obtained from the office earlier this month and began to look into those issues. By analyzing the most recent batch of data on immigration court records and filings it received as well as previous batches, TRAC determined that it appeared the agency was both unintentionally and intentionally deleting records from the data releases. This led to concerns that the office was deleting records from its master database.

The issues are “substantive, ongoing and in need of prompt attention,” TRAC said.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Even more troubling, TRAC said, was the office’s refusal to work with the group to ensure the accuracy of the data.

TRAC notified the office of the data issues when it first spotted them and officials promised to look into it, TRAC said. After some back and forth, however, the agency “dug in its heels,” TRAC said.

Last week, the agency told TRAC that the FOIA process “does not require the Agency to create records in response to your specific questions, nor to certify the accuracy of data contained in responsive documents,” TRAC said.

After that exchange, TRAC said it decided to publicize its observations.

By Claire Hansen for U.S NEWS
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