DOJ and DHS Admit to Faults in Report Deceptively Linking Immigration and Terrorism, Yet Refuse to Retract Report or Correct Public Record
Democracy Forward, Muslim Advocates Amend Lawsuit Challenging Administration’s Unlawful Decision to Let Faulty Report Stand
Oakland CA — Yesterday, on behalf of and in partnership with Muslim Advocates, Democracy Forward filed an amended complaint in the groups’ ongoing effortchallenging the Trump administration’s unlawful publication of an intentionally misleading and biased Report that claims most terrorism-related offenses are committed by immigrants and non-citizens. Both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security–the two agencies that authored the Report–have admitted that the information quality concerns first raised by the groups in January 2018 have merit. Indeed, late last year, DOJ conceded that the joint Report “could be criticized” for failing to “promote the perception of objectivity.” Despite these admissions, the administration refuses to retract or correct the Report in violation of federal law.
“The Trump administration has begrudgingly admitted its own mistakes, yet refuses to provide the required legal redress,” said Democracy Forward Senior Counsel, Robin Thurston. “As inconvenient as the truth may be for the President and his administration, they are breaking the law by continuing to promote falsehoods to the American public.”
“The government’s failure to publicly correct and retract the misleading, biased, and inaccurate Report continues to harm Muslim communities by stigmatizing them and maintaining false narratives about them in public discourse,” said Sirine Shebaya, Interim Legal Director with Muslim Advocates. “The government has an obligation to affirmatively retract and disavow the Report, and we will continue to fight to ensure it does so.”
The groups allege that DOJ and DHS are violating a federal data accuracy law–the Information Quality Act–by manipulating data to frame foreign-born people as the primary terrorist threat facing America. The Report paints this skewed picture, in part, by asserting that 73% of individuals convicted of international terrorism-related offenses were foreign-born, a statistic based on an unreliable methodology and a misleading presentation of the data. Over the past few months, each agency has separately admitted that the information quality concerns with the Report raised by the groups have merit, but both nevertheless have refused to retract or correct the Report as required by the IQA.
The groups first submitted a request for correction or retraction of the Report in January 2018. After the agencies failed to respond, the groups filed their initial complaint in April 2018. The agencies finally provided responses, in the face of litigation, but the responses, which denied the request were inadequate. The groups filed administrative appeals seeking reconsideration in September 2018. The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at the Georgetown University Law Center submitted a letter in support of these appeals, signed by nearly a dozen counterterrorism experts, including Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. This letter emphasized that the misleading Report itself may damage our national security by sewing exactly the kind of discord and confusion sought by terrorists.
The amended complaint was filed April 1, 2019 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.