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Lawsuit Claims ICE Violated FOIA Laws by Refusing to Let Attorney See Her Client’s File

Statue of justiceThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is taking legal action on behalf of Glenwood Springs attorney Jennifer Smith who was told by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that she could not access her client’s file because the ICE deemed her client a “fugitive” non-U.S. citizen.

FOIA Lawsuit Against the ICE and USCIS

The ACLU and Smith slammed a lawsuit against the ICE and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) because of their refusal to respond to Smith’s request to access her client’s file under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Four years ago, the USCIS told Smith that it had 18 pages of documents regarding her client, but then deferred her to the ICE which refused her request.

According to Smith, it is the ICE’s “practice to deny fugitive alien FOIA requesters access to the FOIA process when the records requested could assist the alien in continuing to evade enforcement efforts.”

It took two years after Smith appealed that the ICE sent her a letter. It said, “ICE’s records indicate that as of September 3, 2015, the subject of your request is a fugitive under the Immigration and Nationality Act of the United States. It is ICE’s practice to deny fugitive alien FOIA requesters access to the FOIA process when the records requested could assist the alien in continuing to evade immigration enforcement efforts.”

Smith claims that the refusal of the ICE makes it impossible for her to represent her client in court, because her client – like many other immigrants – have little or no information about immigration laws.

In the complaint, Smith states, “Immigrants seeking legal advice may be unable to explain to their attorney which agency they met with, and what type of interaction transpired, and what the legal issues may be. In these circumstances the only way the non-citizen’s lawyer may obtain this kind of information is through a FOIA request. Without access to the FOIA process, a lawyer may have literally no place to start in assisting her client.”

A Burden on Immigration Attorneys

The ACLU states that the ICE’s policy on refusing to disclose records “imposes significant burdens on lawyers who represent non-citizens in connection with immigration issues.”

The ACLU is seeking the full release of Smith’s requested records, reimbursement for all of Smith’s legal fees, as well as an acknowledgement that the ICE violated FOIA laws.

If you want to understand more about the challenges and strategies involved in immigration proceedings, then schedule a consultation with Lyttle Law Firm. We will help you find the best approaches for your case. Check out our website for more information about our legal services.