Washington, DC — Today, Muslim Advocates and Democracy Forward sued the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) for issuing a misleading, biased, and harmful government report on terrorism. The groups invoked the Information Quality Act (“IQA”) — a data accuracy law — to seek legal redress for the Trump Administration’s baseless claim that most terrorism-related offenses are committed by foreign-born persons. The misleading claim flagrantly violates information quality requirements imposed by the IQA and is part of a concerted effort by the Administration to advance a false and discriminatory view that American Muslims pose a threat to national security.
As set forth in the complaint and confirmed by other reports, the Administration’s analysis mangles the facts in order to fabricate a threat posed by immigrants, particularly those of Muslim background — in an effort to promote the Administration’s extreme and anti-Muslim immigration policies. For example, the complaint explains that DOJ and DHS violated the IQA in asserting that 73 percent of individuals convicted of international terrorism-related offenses were foreign-born, a statistic that is based on an unreliable methodology and misleading presentation of the data. The Administration is now relying on this report in support of its efforts to end long standing pathways to legal immigration such as the diversity visa lottery and family reunification.
“The Trump administration’s relentless persecution of immigrants, minorities, and American Muslims has taken many outlandish, unconstitutional, and unlawful forms over the past year and a half. This so-called report is blatantly false, purposefully misleading, and it’s illegal,” said Johnathan Smith, Legal Director of Muslim Advocates. “The government has an obligation to be truthful and transparent, and we plan to hold this administration to that standard.”
DHS officials have reportedly confirmed that career experts were not consulted in the development of the report.
“Federal agencies are legally obligated to publish accurate information and we are going to hold them accountable for that responsibility,” said Anne Harkavy, Executive Director of Democracy Forward. “The misleading information disseminated by the Trump administration is not just illegal in a technical sense, it is also deeply harmful to immigrant communities who are maligned by their government.”
In January, Muslim Advocates and Democracy Forward invoked the IQA—a little-known data quality law requiring federal agencies to provide accurate and unbiased information to the public—to petition the Trump Administration to retract and correct the misleading terror report. The Administration failed to respond, forcing the groups to seek court intervention.
Under the IQA, government agencies must meet quality standards when disseminating information to the public, particularly when such information has a “clear and substantial impact on important public policies,” like the current debates on immigration policy and national security.
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.
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.
December 7, 2018