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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Watchdogs Say DHS is Hiding Something

WASHINGTON (CN) - The American Immigration Council says the Department of Homeland Security won't cough up records that will show how DHS and its creature, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, interfere with noncitizens' rights to legal counsel.

"Access to counsel is at the very core of our legal system and is integral to ensuring that all noncitizens seeking admission, asylum, or lawful permanent residence, or facing removal are afforded a fair process and a meaningful opportunity to be heard," the American Immigration Council says in its federal FOIA complaint.

The Immigration Council points out that interactions between DHS and Customs officials and noncitizens do not normally take place in courtrooms, but in airports, interview rooms and offices.

"Reports from immigration lawyers across the country indicate that CBP imposes far-reaching limitations on access to counsel," the Immigration Council claims. "CBP officers have prevented attorneys from accompanying their clients during inspection, limited the scope of representation, refused to accept supporting documentation proffered by attorneys, and actively dissuaded noncitizens from hiring attorneys."

The Immigration Council adds that DHS policies on access to counsel are "difficult to ascertain and are arbitrarily applied."

The council's FOIA request sought records on attorneys' ability to be present during their clients' interactions with CBP, on what role attorneys may play during their clients' interactions with CBP, on attorney conduct during interactions with CBP on behalf of their clients, and attorney appearances at CBP offices or other facilities.

It claims the DHS merely referred it to its website and inspector's field manual, then acknowledged later that its search "had been incomplete and that its reference to 'public information' was not an adequate disclosure."

The DHS then released 2 pages of records, taken from two manuals, and claimed to have no other records on the matter.

"The limited documents CBP and DHS have disclosed strongly support the inference that further responsive documents exist," according to the complaint.

The Immigration Council wants an injunction ordering DHS and Customs to perform a reasonable search and release the records.

The American Immigration Council is represented by Creighton Magid with Dorsey Whitney.

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