Obama immigration actions may be behind FOIA surge
Posted: 10:25 pm Sunday, June 7th, 2015
By Jamie Dupree
The lure of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration may have created a surge in Freedom of Information Act requests for the Department of Homeland Security, as immigrants – legal and illegal – seek immigration documents that the federal government may have about them.
“There has been a 182 percent increase in the number of FOIA requests to the Department of Homeland Security since the Obama Administration took over,” said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), who pressed the chief FOIA official at a hearing last week about the DHS backlog.
“The FOIA backlog has more than doubled in part because we’ve received an enormous increase in the number of requests for Fiscal Year 2014,” said Karen Newman, the official in charge of Freedom of Information requests at Homeland Security.
Newman said “many of these requests seek immigration records,” as they mainly went to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service) and ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
As Rep. Carter indicated in his exchange with Newman at a hearing of the House Oversight Committee, many immigrants are being urged to ask for their immigration records – whether they are here legally or not.
The above graphic is from the office of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, as he publicly urged those who might be able to take advantage of the President’s immigration actions to first check their immigration records.
“You cannot apply for these programs yet,” Reid’s notice says, which then encourages those who might take advantage of the immigration actions to file a FOIA request for any “relevant documents,” like immigration files, known as the “A file.”
At this point, there is no guarantee the documents will be part of any proceedings on the President’s executive actions, which remain under review by the federal courts.
The next scheduled action is a July 10 hearing before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on an injunction against implementation of the President’s program.
The Obama Administration had made an emergency request to have that injunction lifted, but that was rejected by a three judge appeals court panel.
Still, immigration groups continue with training in case the new programs are allowed to go forward – for example, the group Administration Relief is starting a three-part webinar this week.
“This series covers ways that we can help potential expanded DACA and DAPA applicants prepare,” the group says in a notice about the event.