TRAC, or Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, is a data gathering, data research and data distribution organization at Syracuse University.” The purpose of TRAC “is to provide the American people — and institutions of oversight such as Congress, news organizations, public interest groups, businesses, scholars, and lawyers — with comprehensive information about staffing, spending, and enforcement activities of the federal government.”
Just recently, TRAC combed through data released from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which is the agency that oversees the U.S. immigration court system and made some rather disturbing discoveries. After TRAC notified the EOIR regarding the issues it uncovered, the agency failed to fix the problems which led to TRAC making public its “observations of the quality of the agency’s public data releases,” which will be shared with you below.
Here are some of the irregularities TRAC uncovered in the EOIR’s data release.
- In the first batch of data that was released by EOIR back in September 2019, TRAC found that the data “included 11 separate files of records on Immigration Court proceedings that were incorrectly formatted. This caused serious “confusion over the relationship between certain variables and values, with some values appearing to apply to the wrong variables in the file.” TRAC stated that if individuals were even to attempt to read the “garbled data,” “one could reach entirely erroneous conclusions about court events.”
After TRAC noticed the irregularities in the data, it contacted EOIR directly and was promised by the agency that it would look into the matter.
- TRAC was later provided with new data and was informed by the EOIR that the issue had been fixed. After TRAC began looking into the second batch of data it was provided, “it found that while the first set of problems had been fixed, an entirely new set of problems had occurred. In Batch 2, thousands of records of court proceedings and 2.8 million records on scheduled hearings – hearings and proceedings which were included in the first release – had entirely disappeared.”
Again, TRAC contacted the EOIR directly to inform the agency of the discrepancies it found. The EOIR once again promised that it would look into the matter.
- TRAC was then provided with a third batch of data and notified that all issues had been fixed. The EOIR said that the agency could “trust Batch 3 of the data release.” As TRAC began to comb through the third batch of data, it “found that problems in batch three were identical to problems in batch two.” EOIR was notified once again that issued existed, however, “EOIR insisted that TRAC was wrong and that the problems had been fixed. It later emerged that while the General Counsel’s office of EOIR (TRAC’s point of contact) believed a third and corrected release was being supplied, the files had not been changed but were actually the same files that TRAC had received in Batch 2.”
Seeing that TRAC was never provided with corrected data in the third batch it received, EOIR later provided an updated batch three.
- After analyzing the third batch of data EOIR provided TRAC with, it found that while “the missing 2.8 million records on scheduled hearings had reappeared, some court proceedings that had been contained in Batch 1 were still missing. And there were still other puzzling omissions.”
Unfortunately, TRAC has reported that this “is not the first time the public has identified significant inaccuracies in EOIR’s reported data.” According to TRAC, “the Supreme Court of the United States relied upon figures provided by the EOIR as the basis for a major ruling affecting ICE detention practices. After the Supreme Court decided the case, the public discovered that the figures provided by the EOIR were fundamentally wrong. The EOIR did not uncover the data irregularities on its own. The EOIR’s mistakes were only recognized because the public obtained the underlying data through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and identified the relevant discrepancies.”
TRAC States that Key Gaps Exist Within EOIR’s Data Verification Procedures
After TRAC received the “garbled data” and struggled to get EOIR to correct the inaccuracies it found within all three data releases, it determined that there are some “key gaps in the EOIR’s data verification procedures that lead to unreliable and inaccurate data releases.” These key gaps include:
- Unintentional data removal.
- Intentional data removal.
- Garbled data releases.
- Possible data deletion in master database.
TRAC went on to explain in its public release that “it is deeply troubling that rather than working cooperatively with TRAC to clear up the reasons for these unexplained disappearances, the agency has decided to dig in its heels and insist the public is not entitled to have answers to why records are missing from the data EOIR releases to the public. TRAC urges the EOIR to take the basic steps necessary for managing any large database, especially a database of as inestimable value and relevance as the one EOIR maintains for the Immigration Courts.”
Given the issues identified above, it is essential for anyone dealing with any type of immigration-related issue to contact a New Jersey immigration lawyer. The Law Office of Eric M. Mark is a reputable immigration law firm in New Jersey that is qualified and capable of providing you with the legal representation you need.
The Law Office of Eric M. Mark is located at:
Jersey City Office
121 Newark Avenue, Suite 515
Jersey City, NJ 07302
201 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07102
20 Commerce Drive, Ste. 135
Cranford, NJ 07016