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Court Case

Protect Democracy & Brennan Center v. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security

The Brennan Center, Protect Democracy, and others filed an administrative appeal and renewed the request that the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security either rescind or correct a highly misleading and flawed report purporting to provide evidence of the non-existent connection between immigration and criminality.

Published: September 28, 2018

On January 16, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued the report entitled “Executive Order 13780: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, Initial Section 11 Report.” Cited by the Trump Administration to justify curbing immigration, the report was released pursuant to the second in a series of executive orders banning travel to the U.S. from a set of predominantly Muslim countries. The report attempts to justify the Trump administration’s Executive Orders banning Muslims from entering the United States and has been used to rationalize other regressive immigration policies by highlighting the non-existent connection between immigration and criminality. However, it is rife with inaccuracies and methodological flaws, fails to be transparent about the data on which it relies. It is designed to reinforce a political narrative, not present an objective account of the facts.

Shortly after the report was issued, the Brennan Center, Protect Democracy, and others filed a joint petition under the Information Quality Act (IQA), which requires all federal agencies to adhere to certain standards of “quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity” when providing information to the public. Petitioners identified nine distinct violations under the IQA, including the misleading exclusion of domestic terrorism from the report’s analysis and failing to provide important information about underlying data. The petition requested that DOJ and DHS issue a corrected version of the report that adheres to the requirements of federal guidelines or, in the alternative, that both departments retract the report in its entirety. When the agencies initially failed to respond to the petition in the timeframe required by law, the petitioners filed suit in Massachusetts federal court.

The DOJ and DHS filed responses on July 31 and August 1 respectively, arguing that the Departments have no obligation to address the glaring flaws in the report. Indeed, the government’s position is that courts do not even have the authority to require federal agencies to correct inaccurate information.

In response, on September 13, 2018, the Brennan Center and the other petitioners halted the litigation, filed an administrative appeal within the executive branch, and renewed the request that DOJ and DHS either rescind or correct the report. As the appeal argues, “the public cannot help but be misled by the Report,” which aims to connect immigration to terrorism, “a conclusion that may be inconsistent with reality once the assumptions the Departments baked into their analysis are brought to light.”

On December 21, in a response to our administrative appeal, the Department of Justice admitted that the report contained misleading assertions that "could be criticized" for failing to "promote the perception of objectivity." Despite this admission of error, the Trump Administration still refuses to correct the report, which remains available to the public and continues to support the Administration's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim narrative.

Read the DHS/DOJ Report

Read the Original IQA Petition

Read the Complaint in MA Federal Court

Read the DHS/DOJ Responses to our petition

Read the Administrative Appeal to the DHS/DOJ Responses

Read the DOJ's Response to our Administrative Appeal