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Oye! Times
May 30, 2014

Hijinks on ICE: Freezing Out TRAC on FOIA Requests
By Dan Cadman

More than once in the past, I've blogged about Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse(TRAC). See, for example, here and here. It is an entity with which I almost never agree philosophically, but for which I have a measure of respect because of its tenacity in digging for data hidden or denied by this most opaque of presidential administrations; one whose Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and subordinate immigration agencies have done all that they can to either completely withhold statistical information or to disclose it sparingly and only in such fashion as serves their purposes. For both of those reasons (the administration's obfuscations and TRAC's persistence), then, it was no surprise when TRAC announced earlier this month that it was filing suit against DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), charging them "with multiple violations of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Administrative Practices Act and the administrative rules of both agencies." According to TRAC, the genesis of the lawsuit is a recent ICE decision in a FOIA request filed by TRAC that it is essentially "seeking records to further a commercial trade for profit ... and not acting on behalf of an educational institution operating a program of scholarly research." Such a finding has major financial consequences to an entity run on a small budget, as many scholarly and research institutions inevitably are, because it permits the agency to deny FOIA fee waivers, and in fact to substantially raise costs assessed for responding to records and data requests. As a practical consequence, this basically ensures that only very determined and deep-pocketed organizations are likely to pursue such requests with the kind of persistence TRAC has shown in the past.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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