District Court Issues FOIA Ruling
On May 7, 2012, the U.S. district court in the Northern District of California issued a final judgment and permanent injunction ordering USCIS to respond to requests for A files under the Freedom of Information Act within the statutory 20 day time limit and to determine FOIA appeals within the 20 day time limit required under the law. The injunction takes effect immediately. The court also ordered USCIS to follow, implement, and execute the terms of the 1992 Mayock Settlement Agreement, which provides that a requestor (separate and apart from Track 3 processing) is entitled to expedited processing upon a showing of “exceptional need or urgency.” This is demonstrated by showing that “substantial due process rights of the requestor would be impaired by the failure to process immediately, and the information is not otherwise available.” Previously, on October 13, 2011, the court found that USCIS engaged in a long-time pattern and practice of violating the FOIA time limit provisions that prejudiced attorneys’ abilities to fairly represent their clients in immigration matters. (AILA Doc. No. 11101431). The FOIA litigation arose out of a naturalization application that was denied based on the allegation that Plaintiff gave false testimony with the intent to obtain an immigration benefit, and thus lacked good moral character. Evidence of the false testimony was allegedly contained in the government’s A file. USCIS delayed Plaintiff’s FOIA request to obtain the evidence, and then ultimately refused to disclose it. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled on March 21, 2012, that Plaintiff was eligible for naturalization. The court found that the Plaintiff did not provide false testimony on either his I-485 or N-400 applications, noting that, in the instances where Plaintiff’s responses were deficient, he provided reasonable, credible explanations for the omissions. It also found that the Plaintiff consistently volunteered information to USCIS to enable it to make its decision. As a result, the court held that the plaintiff was a person of good moral character during the relevant three-year period, and was eligible for naturalization.