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AIC, June 19, 2019
"Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), individuals must receive a determination on requests for information within a maximum of 30 days. However, individuals and attorneys who file FOIAs with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for copies of immigration files, or “A-Files”, routinely face waiting times well over 30 days — in some cases, the wait can be months.
Further, USCIS exacerbates delays by often referring requests to Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to handle responsive FOIA documents in ICE’s possession. As a result, USCIS and ICE have substantial FOIA backlogs and individuals live in legal limbo, enduring emotional and financial hardship as they grapple with how — or whether — to proceed with an immigration benefit or defense.
To challenge these systemic violations and the harm they cause, the American Immigration Council Council and its partners, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and the Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin, have filed a nationwide class action in federal district court. The lawsuit alleges that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), USCIS, and ICE routinely violate the FOIA statute and fail to allocate enough resources to reduce backlogs and provide timely determinations on FOIA requests.
This litigation aims to build on previous success against Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in Brown et al. v. CBP et al., which resulted in a settlement agreement aimed at enforcing timely compliance under FOIA by CBP. Individuals seeking information from the government in order to determine how best to proceed in their immigration cases have a right to timely handling of their FOIA requests."