On August 7, 2012 the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) sent the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a letter responding to the agency’s July 26 FOIA refusal to process TRAC’s request for case-by-case information in anonymous form on the 75,044 Notices to Appear (NTAs) the agency had filed in the Immigration Courts during the first four months of 2012. TRAC noted that, in an ICE fact sheet documenting these filings which was provided to the New York Times, the agency stated:
“Because these new cases were initiated following the implementation of DHS prosecutorial discretion policies, DHS anticipates that fewer of these cases actually filed in immigration court will constitute a very low enforcement priority.”
TRAC submitted its FOIA request on June 12 to allow a fuller public examination of the characteristics of the individuals ICE was seeking to deport in the newly filed NTAs to see how many of these fit within the announced agency’s policies defining high versus low enforcement priority areas.
In its response, the agency alleged it had no way to locate any information on the recent NTAs it had filed. As TRAC’s FOIA followup letter notes:
“This seems a most curious contention on your part. Your letter does not explain how the agency could readily identify that there were precisely 75,044 cases. It appears that it had no difficulty in locating these cases to compile its counts, but it somehow is unwilling to use these same methods when the public desires information about them.”
TRAC also sought information about earlier ICE Immigration Court filings which ICE previously refused to release on the grounds its information was incomplete. That refusal is still pending on appeal before Susan Mathias, Chief of the Government Information Law Division in ICE’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor.
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