The Justice Department has acknowledged errors in a controversial report issued last year that implied a link between terrorism in the U.S. and immigration, but officials have declined to retract or correct the document, the Washington Post reports. Released by the Justice and Homeland Security departments, the report said that 402 of 549 individuals — nearly 3 in 4 — convicted of international terrorism charges since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were foreign-born. It was written in compliance with President Trump’s March 2017 executive order halting immigration from six majority-Muslim countries.
Critics expressed alarm at what they considered misleading data presented without context. They called it an attempt to misuse law enforcement agencies to advance a political agenda in opposition to immigration. Several government watchdog and civil liberties groups sued the two agencies, seeking a retraction or correction under the Information Quality Act. The agencies refused. Now, the Justice Department has told the groups it will not retract or correct the document. Rather, “in future reports, the department can strive to minimize the potential for misinterpretation,” said DOJ official Michael Allen. It was a rare DOJ admission that its reporting may have misled the public. One flaw the Justice Department acknowledged was the report’s assertion that between 2003 and 2009, immigrants were convicted of 69,929 sex offenses, which “in most instances constitutes gender-based violence against women.” Actually, the nearly 70,000 offenses spanned a period from 1955 to 2010 — 55 years, not six; the data covered arrests, not convictions; and one arrest could be for multiple offenses. Critics decried the report’s inclusion of eight “illustrative examples” of foreign-born individuals out of a pool of 402 convicted of international terrorism. Allen wrote that, “On reconsideration, the department acknowledges that a focus on eight seemingly similar ‘illustrative examples’ from a list of more than 400 convictions could cause some readers of the report to question its objectivity.”