Wednesday, June 10, 2020

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

Dylan 8.26.19

For generations forward, scholars will be studying the immigration actions of the Trump administration.  There is a question whether the Trump administration is, figuratively speaking, "covering its tracks" with respect to the immigration  courts. 

Earlier this month, I blogged about a recent report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a respected group based at Syracuse that provides reliable data on government action, including immigration matters.  The report concluded that

"the data updated through April 2020 it has just received on asylum and other applications for relief to the Immigration Courts are too unreliable to be meaningful or to warrant publication. We are therefore discontinuing updating our popular Immigration Court Asylum Decisions app, and will take other steps to highlight this problem. We also wish to alert the public that any statistics [the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIA)] has recently published on this topic may be equally suspect, as will be any future reports the agency publishes until these major data deficiencies are explained and rectified.

The EOIR's apparent reckless deletion of potentially irretrievable court records raises urgent concerns that without immediate intervention the agency's sloppy data management practices could undermine its ability to manage itself, thwart external efforts at oversight, and leave the public in the dark about essential government activities. Left unaddressed, the number of deleted records will compound each month and could trigger an expensive data crisis at the agency. And here the missing records are the actual applications for asylum, and how the court is handling them. This is a subject on which there is widespread public interest and concern."

Nolan Rappaport on The Hill expresses concerns about the EOIR's treatment of data.  He notes that revealed in a report in October 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.

In a June 3, 2020 report, TRAC concludes that the data it has received on asylum and other applications for relief through April 2020 are too unreliable to be meaningful — and it has stopped updating its public data on asylum. It also notes that data it has received and posted in recent months may not be accurate.

Rappaport, once a staffer on immigration to the House Judiciary committed, concludes:

"I agree with TRAC’s conclusion in its June report that EOIR's apparently `reckless deletion of potentially irretrievable court records raises urgent concerns.'

The agency's failure to produce coherent data in response to regular (and expected) FOIA requests is inexplicable. What’s more, it makes it more difficult to identify and correct problems the immigration court is having, it prevents congress from conducting meaningful oversight, and it makes it impossible for the public to know how well the immigration court system is actually functioning."


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