What is a Freedom of Information Act request in a immigration context?

///What is a Freedom of Information Act request in a immigration context?

The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) provides that “any person” may request certain public documents.  Courts have found that “any person” applies to both U.S. citizen and foreign citizens. 

The function of a FOIA request is it requires agencies to provide information they may not otherwise disclose.  Prior to FOIA agencies had discretion to withhold information if the agency believed it to be in the “public interest” or for “good cause.”  FOIA makes it clear that agencies can only disclose information if it is a recognized exception found at 5 USC 552(b) (1-9).

The purpose behind FOIA is to increase the public’s access to information.  Unless the requested material falls into one of the specific statutory exceptions is must be made available to the general public, irrespective of why the person seeks the information.

At Andres Mejer Law, we typically file FOIA requests for our clients to review copies of prior applications.  For example, to determine if a client is 245i eligible.  Whenever we have a client with a prior order of removal, we file a FOIA request to determine if there are grounds to reopen the prior order.  FOIA requests is sometimes the only way we have to gather important information since often our client’s haven’t kept a copy of what was done or correspondence they received from immigration.