Is the Executive Office for Immigration Review incompetent — or is Trump hiding something? By Nolan Rappaport

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The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) is a Syracuse University research center that collects and analyzes data on immigration court activities. It gets the data with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that it submits regularly to the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). The TRAC research center is a reliable source of objective, factual information that is supported by numerous foundations, such as the Rockefeller Family Fund, the New York Times Company Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

EOIR is a Justice Department office that includes a 466-judge immigration court, a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), an Office of Information Technology, an Office of Policy, and a General Counsel’s office.

EOIR records data on the activities of the immigration court and makes the data available to the public pursuant to the requirements in section 552(a) of FOIA. This includes a large batch of anonymized data about immigration court cases that EOIR prepares for TRAC’s monthly FOIA request.

TRAC revealed in a report it issued on Oct. 31, 2019, that EOIR was removing court records from its data. TRAC’s efforts to persuade EOIR to stop doing this and to replace the missing data have been unsuccessful.

First letter to EOIR

In a letter dated, Nov. 4, 2019, TRAC asked EOIR’s director, James McHenry, for a public acknowledgement that recent EOIR data releases were not complete and that thousands of records were missing.

A spokesperson for EOIR has claimed that EOIR does not delete records. According to the spokesperson, the missing records were withheld on the basis of a FOIA exemption.

But the missing records were included in previous releases. Moreover, when records are withheld because they are exempt from FOIA requests, EOIR is supposed to identify the information being removed and explain why it was exempt from disclosure, which EOIR did not do.

A comparison of the data in EOIR’s September 2019 release to its August 2019 release revealed that more than 1,500 relief applications that were in the August release were missing from the September release.

The missing data includes 17 different types of relief applications, including applications for adjustment of status, suspension of deportation, and asylum.

According to a report TRAC issued on Dec. 18, 2019, McHenry did not respond to the letter, but an EOIR representative assured TRAC that in the future, EOIR’s technology office would review immigration court data before it is released.

This was not the first time there has been a problem with EOIR immigration court data.


Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @NolanR1 or at