FOIA Suits Seeking DHS Access to Counsel Records

FOIA Suits Seeking DHS Access to Counsel Records

American Immigration Council v. DHS and USCIS, No. 1:11-cv-01971 (D.D.C. filed Nov. 8, 2011) and American Immigration Council v. DHS and CBP, No. 1:11-cv-01972 (D.D.C. filed Nov. 8, 2011)

"The LAC filed two lawsuits against DHS to compel the release of records relating to noncitizens’ access to counsel before USCIS and CBP. The LAC pursued disclosure of these records, as well as records from ICE, through FOIA requests filed in March 2010. To date, USCIS has failed to turn over any documents, and CBP has turned over only a few excerpts from its practice manuals. ICE has informed the LAC that it conducted a search for records, but that it is “unable to locate or identify any responsive records.” The LAC has filed an administrative appeal of ICE’s determination and will pursue litigation if necessary. Dorsey & Whitney LLP is co-counsel with the LAC on these FOIA cases.

Complaint against USCIS (with original FOIA request attached)
Complaint against CBP (with original FOIA request attached)

The LAC has long advocated for the right to counsel in immigration settings, including meaningful access to an attorney. In conjunction with AILA, the LAC currently is engaged in administrative advocacy to secure improved access to counsel in all DHS proceedings.  In 2010, the LAC and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conducted a survey regarding lawyer’s experiences representing their clients before DHS. The survey revealed widespread restrictions on access to counsel before USCIS, ICE and CBP. Such limitations include bars on attorney presence at CBP inspections, limitations on the ability to consult with attorneys in ICE detention facilities and during questioning by ICE, and restrictions on attorneys’ ability to participate in interviews before USCIS. The survey also highlighted significant variations in policies and practices in DHS offices throughout the country.  To better understand DHS policies, the LAC submitted extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the agencies requesting records related to counsel. To date, the agencies have failed to disclose all responsive documents." - AIC LAC, Nov. 9, 2011.