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Monday, February 26, 2024 | Back issues
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Immigration Attorneys Settle FOIA-Backlog Case

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Immigration attorneys and their clients have settled claims with U.S. Customs and Border Protection over thousands of unanswered Freedom of Information Act requests.

Led by Glendale attorney Meredith Brown, a proposed class of immigration lawyers said that by the end of fiscal year 2013, the agency had a backlog of nearly 38,000 FOIA requests that had been pending for more than the 20 days permitted by the law.

They said their requests had been pending for anywhere between 7 and 25 months, and the agency's failure to respond affects the proposed class's ability to obtain legal permanent residency in the United States.

At a motion for class certification hearing in October 2015, U.S. District Judge James Donato said the plaintiffs needed more proof that the department engaged in a pattern and practice of illegally delaying FOIA requests.

The parties began settlement talks in March 2016.

Stacy Tolchin, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents the plaintiffs, confirmed the settlement Tuesday.

Under the settlement, the CBP agreed to post a monthly FOIA report on its website listing the number and duration of pending requests. The agreement notes that the agency has already made significant progress in clearing its FOIA backlog and generally responds to most non-complex requests within 20 days. It also said the plaintiffs' requests have been resolved.

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