Putting TRAC to Work
  Legal and Scholarly
ACME, An International Journal for Critical Geographies

Reading Between The (Redacted) Lines: Muddling Through Absent Presences In Public Information Requests On U.S. Immigration Detention
By Nancy Hiemstra, Stony Brook University and Deirdre Conlon, University of Leeds

We have argued that mundane bureaucratic practices can conceal government relationships and activities, and, furthermore, despite and because they are not necessarily intentional and coordinated, these practices often work to reinforce state power. In this section, we suggest that under the Trump administration, attempts to obscure information became significantly more deliberate, in ways that create absences that are both more dangerous and easier to identify. When Trump took office in 2017, there was already an established culture of—and bureaucratic practices for—constraining information available to the public about immigration detention. Analysis of the documents we received in 2014 illustrates that the ICE FOIA office routinely limited access to federal government documents and made available the least amount of information possible to meet technically the requirements of FOIA law. As previously noted, others have experienced this culture of concealment for years, and organizations including Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) and NIJC have developed projects dedicated to forcing greater government transparency through FOIAs. As we experienced in our project, DHS already frequently violated FOIA laws related to the length of time to respond (as noted previously this is supposed to be 20 business days), exemptions have long been applied liberally, and there is a history of partially fulfilling FOIAs and refusing to fill FOIAs deemed too complicated or onerous. However, the Trump administration intensified this culture dramatically, and introduced new strategies unabashedly aimed at shielding government actions from public knowledge and accountability.....[Citing TRAC data and reports].

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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