Improved FOIA System for Immigration-Related Requests20 Mar 2014
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) system for filing and tracking Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests has recently been improved. A FOIA request is a powerful tool used to obtain case-specific government records and other internal government documents. FOIA requests submitted to the DHS can provide individuals with documents needed for an immigration case. These requests can also help promote transparency and accountability in government, such as when journalists rely on FOIA to obtain information on the government’s activities.
FOIA to Obtain Documents and Information
FOIA requests allow individuals to access information and documentation contained in their own immigration files. Such requests are commonly used to clarify uncertainties in a case history or to obtain documents that have been lost over the course of time. Not everything in the government records is accessible in this manner, but it is often possible to retrieve sufficient information to serve one’s purposes. More information on FOIA requests is available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, FOIA Request Can Help Resolve Some Immigration Cases (23.Sep.2011).
FOIA Filing and Tracking Through Online System
In March 2014, the DHS announced the implementation of a consolidated, web-based FOIA form. This form allows for submission of FOIA requests to any DHS component, including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP,) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This system also provides for online status tracking of FOIA requests while they are in process. Many of the DHS components also offer estimated completion dates as part of the online status check data. The online form is available on the DHS FOIA WebSite.
Increased transparency and a streamlined process for the FOIA request process is greatly appreciated. However, the DHS still has more work to do to make this a properly functioning system, especially with regard to the turnaround time for processing these requests. Though the law requires the government to provide documents requested under FOIA within 20 days, in practice, such requests filed with the various components of the DHS often take substantially longer. Those who require assistance with making a FOIA request are encouraged to schedule a consultation with a Murthy Law Firm attorney.
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