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Asylum Interview Notes Must be Disclosed

December 6, 2013

Author: Asylum Attorney Alena Shautsova

Asylum Officers will have to share their notes they take at the time of the interview pursuant to valid FOIA requests.

The first step in asylum process in the US, is an interview with an asylum officer. During the interview, the officer decides if the applicant is credible, and if his/her story is consistent and truthful.  The officer takes notes at the time of the interview and often those notes determine the future of the applicant’s case.

The issue is that up until Martins v. USCIS lawsuit, the officers refused to share the notes with the applicant, and as such, the applicant had no opportunity to challenge officer’s determinations and conclusions.

Under the settlement agreement reached in Martins, USCIS must instruct all officers, employees, and agents involved in the processing of FOIA requests that asylum officer interview notes – the records reflecting information, instructions, and questions asked by officers and responses given by applicants in asylum interviews – are not by their nature and status protected by the deliberative process privilege as a general matter and thus are to be produced under FOIA. This training must be completed within three months of the settlement agreement. USCIS must demonstrate its compliance to the court with the settlement after 3 months.

It should add transparency to the asylum interview process and strengthen the due process rights of the applicants.

If you believe you need assistance with the asylum process, call law office of Alena Shautsova, US Asylum attorney 917-885-2261.