USCIS Chastised for Lack of Timeliness on FOIA Requests

An important Case relating to the Freedom of Information Act:

A federal district court in San Jose, CA has determined that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) engaged in a longstanding pattern and practice of violating FOIA’s time-limit provisions and prejudiced immigration attorneys’ abilities to fairly represent their clients before the government.  In a ruling on October 13, the Court granted plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief requiring USCIS to provide a copy of a requestor’s file within the twenty day time limit mandated by FOIA and give written notice if a ten day  extension of time is needed due to “unusual circumstances”.  The Court also determined that the government had a history of violating FOIA dating back to a previous FOIA lawsuit filed in 1985.  That lawsuit ended in 1992 with a Settlement Agreement  which provided for the establishment of a national policy on priority processing for FOIA requests.  It included a provision for expedited processing of FOIA requests where the failure to process a request immediately would impair “substantial due process rights of the requestor”.  The Court found that the two Plaintiffs could seek to enforce the Settlement Agreement. The case is now online at Hajro v. USCIS, 2011 WL 4854021.

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