Quartz reporter sues government for immigrant data
David Yanofsky of Quartz writes about why he is suing the federal government to obtain records on who is entering the country.
Yanofsky writes, “My lawsuit against the Department of Commerce asks a judge to compel the release of two databases that chronicle the flow of people into the US. One contains anonymous immigrations records; the other, statistics about international air travelers. Together, they would tell us a lot about who is entering the country, and for what purpose, at a time when American border policy is under intense scrutiny.
“The databases, maintained by the department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), are the only comprehensive records of people coming to the US. They don’t just tally US visitors by their origin, but also by age, residency, port of entry, visa type, and initial destination.
“I first sought access to this information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in March 2015. That request was denied. Instead, the government offered to sell me five years of statistics from the two databases for $173,775. Access costs upwards of $15,000 per year of data—the more recent, the more expensive.
“It’s not clear who pays that kind of money for the ITA’s data, but it would be of use to hotel chains, airlines, tourist destinations, and other companies that rely on business from international travelers. The commerce department has claimed that, because it is authorized to charge for the databases, they are exempt from FOIA requests.”
Read more here.