Resource: Lawsuit Challenges Systemic USCIS and ICE FOIA Delays

By: American Immigration Council

January 24, 2022

American Immigration Council

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, the American Immigration Council and its partners, National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA), Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin, 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.