FOIA – Freedom of Information Act
What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), is a federal law which allows for the full or partial disclosure of documents which are controlled by the United States government. Every executive branch department, including their agencies and offices are subject to FOIA.
Who Can Make a FOIA Request?
Anyone is allowed to make a FOIA request. This includes U.S. Citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, associations, and universities. Every department has instructions on how to make a department-specific FOIA request for a release of records.
Does the Government Have to Give the Requestor Everything?
The short answer to this question is no. FOIA outlines nine categories of information which are considered exempt from a request made under FOIA. If a government agency determines that the requested information falls under one of the following categories, the agency can withhold certain information from a request. These categories are:
- Classified information that would damage national security
- Internal information involving personnel rules and agency practices
- Material specifically shielded from disclosure by another law
- Confidential commercial or financial data, like trade secrets
- Records that would be privileged in litigation
- Information that would invade someone’s privacy
- Law enforcement records
- Information related to government regulation of financial institutions
- Certain geological/geographical data
What is the Point of Making a Freedom of Information Act Request?
A FOIA request can be of great assistance when an individual who is facing removal from the United States does not have any paperwork that has been issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In the arena of immigration law, a FOIA request allows for an individual or their immigration lawyer to review their records from the federal agencies tasked with enforcing immigration law. These Freedom of Information Act requests can assist with having immigration records released from the Department of State, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or the Customs and Border Protection.
Once an immigration attorney has hold of the released information, it may aid them in determining the best course of legal action to assist the individual in their removal proceedings or any other immigration issue which they may be facing.
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