WASHINGTON (CN) — Three D.C.-area law firms with clients facing deportation from the United States brought a federal complaint for government records on an official serving 15 years in prison for accepting bribes to falsify naturalization certificates.
Despite the 2007 conviction of Robert Schofield, a former supervisor at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the complaint says that agency has begun deportation proceedings against many immigrants with whom Schofield dealt.
“Our clients are facing deportation because of abuse by a senior administration official that the government agencies were well aware of,” Clark Hill attorney Thomas Ragland said in an interview about the lawsuit his firm brought on Nov. 30 along with Wasserman Mancini & Chang and the Law Office of Zahedi.
“We want to know what was the agency doing, what did it know about Scholfield and why they let his actions continue despite the well-documented evidence of wrongdoing by Schofield,” Ragland said.
“It seems like there is something wrong here, and we should have the all the information available to best represent our clients,” he added.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia comes just over a year after the three law firms filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act with three federal agencies: the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, the National Archives and Records Administration and the FBI Office of Information Policy.
None of these agencies has returned a request for comment.
The law firms say they want to know why Schofield remained in office as long as he did, when he faced allegations of misconduct long before the government prosecuted him for bribery.
At least 10 years before his arrest, Schofield “had been accused of wide array of misconduct including accepting bribes, unauthorized use of government credit cards, and falsifying immigration documents,” the complaint states.
“Notwithstanding his unethical and unlawful conduct, Schofield was permitted to hold a position of authority with the government, first with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and then with the USCIS, which he abused to the detriment of Plaintiffs’ clients,” the law firms note, abbreviating U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In one government motion quoted in the complaint, federal prosecutors called it “unclear” how Schofield was able to become a supervisory district adjudication officer for USCIS, “a trusted senior official … with almost 30 years of federal service.”
“The public does not know what other government officials knew about Schofield’s misconduct or when they knew it,” the complaint says. “Information shedding light on why this individual was permitted to hold a position of authority – which he abused to the continuing detriment of Plaintiff’s clients – is what the Schofield FOIA request is designed to reveal.”
According to a Washington Post article cited in the lawsuit, Schofield fled to East Asia at one point in the decade before his prosecution when confronted about an “inappropriate relationship” he had with a woman connected to an INS criminal probe.
On the run, Schofield used his government credit card to make $36,000 in unauthorized purchases, the Post said.
“It remains unclear when Schofield returned to the United States, how the previous investigations ended and how Schofield became a supervisor when the Department of Homeland Security took over INS’s functions in 2003,” the article says.
Releasing records on Schofield “is in the public interest because it opens agency wrongdoing to the light of public scrutiny … and may assist plaintiffs in effectively representing their clients in removal proceedings before United States Immigration Courts,” the complaint states.
The firms note that they have appealed denial of their requests by the agencies.