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Latin Times
May 19, 2014

ICE Sued By Syracuse University Government Transparency Program Over Freedom Of Information Violations
By David Iaconangelo

A group affiliated with Syracuse University which obtains and publishes reports and data on a wide range of government activities announced on Monday that it had filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for a recent decision to charge the group for the information it disseminates. The group, called the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), wrote in a press release that it was accusing the two agencies of “multiple violations of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Administrative Practices Act and the administrative rules of both agencies.” Most of the information which TRAC disseminates in reports and graphs often used as a source by journalists, scholars and lawmakers is obtained by filing requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a 1965 law designed to ensure citizens’ access to information about the government’s activities. The agency can decide to charge for the time taken to access and duplicate the information if the petitioner’s contribution to the public’s understanding of government operations is not deemed “significant” or if the petitioner is looking to further their “commercial interest.” TRAC’s co-directors, Syracuse University professors Susan Long and David Burnham, say ICE has decided to brand the group as “commercial” despite the fact that neither of them profit from it. In doing so, they wrote, “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.” As of press time, ICE had not responded to requests for comment.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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