Putting TRAC to Work
  Legal and Scholarly
United States District Court, District of Columbia
June 29, 2015

Susan B. Long, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Department of Homeland Security, Defendant. Case No. 1:14-cv-00807 (CRC), Memorandum Opinion

Plaintiffs Susan B. Long and David Burnham are professors at Syracuse University and co-directors of the university's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse ("TRAC"). In November 2013, Long and Burnham, on TRAC's behalf, lodged a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request with Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), a bureau of the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS" or the "Department"). The request sought all data from three large databases maintained by ICE and broader electronic data maintained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Long and Burnham also asked to be classified as representatives of an educational institution and the news media, which would entitle them to reduced FOIA processing fees. In support of their fee classification request, they explained that TRAC regularly analyzes and distills data obtained from federal agencies into reports on government operations in areas of public interest, including immigration enforcement, which are published on TRAC's website and through other means. Although ICE's FOIA office had previously treated TRAC as both an educational and news media requester, this time it denied Long and Burnham's request, claiming they had not adequately explained how the particular information they sought would serve TRAC's educational and journalistic missions. Long and Burnham sued DHS to overturn ICE's determination, and both sides have moved for summary judgment. While ICE might object to the breadth of TRAC's FOIA request and question the originality and accuracy of its research reports, denying it preferred requester status is not the way to handle those concerns. Long and Burnham adequately justified their request for both educational and news media status. The Court will therefore grant their motion for summary judgment and deny the Department's.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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