FOIA: The Importance of Having Your Full Immigration Record
Author: New York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova
FOIA stands for Freedom Of Information Act and is essential for one’s Immigration case. By filing FOIA request, one may not only receive a copy of his/her Immigration file form an Immigration court, Board of Immigration Appeals or USCIS, but also obtain records of one’s interactions with the CBP at the border; receive notes about one’s testimony during his/her Asylum interview and obtain records from the Stokes interview.
A response to FOIA has to be current: if you received a “CD” (the government usually delivers responses to FOIA requests on CDs) in the past but since then had some immigration history: forms filed, a decision made, etc, you need to obtain a “fresh” FOIA response.
One of the most overlooked and underused FOIA requests is an OBIM FOIA: U.S. Office of Biometrics Identity Management (“OBIM,” formerly US-VISIT). Basically, if you would like to receive your files regarding interactions with the Border Patrol officials, you need to file a request for FOIA with OBIM. OBIM requests may be submitted by letter request; Form G-639 by mail, fax, or email; or electronically through the DHS Online Request Form. They should include an original fingerprint card or A-number.
Another important source of information is CBP. A request for records to the CBP may reveal:
Apprehensions and detentions at the border: • Interactions with CBP at the border or in the interior • Form I-94 records • Voluntary return records • Records of entries and exits xi • Expedited removal orders • Advance parole records obtained through CBP.
Unfortunately, the government does not have to disclose all the information. Often, important information is being withheld according to the provisions allowing the government not to share information that they use for investigation purposes, for example. If, however, an adverse decision is made in one’s case, he/she is entitled to have an opportunity to review and respond to the adverse information in the file.
Finally, often, as a result of the lawsuits, the government is forced to share previously withheld information. What was not available 8 years ago, now, may be available, in other words. If you are seeking to “fix” an old Immigration problem, a FOIA request is a must. It takes several months before you receive a response, but the wait is worth it. Through FOIA you can also obtain copies of lost documents; information regarding old filings that potentially can qualify you for an Immigration benefit; and, of course, information that was filled in the forms which can be checked for accuracy.
If you need assistance in obtaining your files, please call 917-885- 2261 for an appointment.