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FOIA Backlog Skyrockets at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

by FOIA Project Staff on May 8th, 2017

The backlog of unprocessed FOIA requests to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to climb. In just a two-year period, the backlog of unanswered FOIA requests has tripled, climbing from 17,998 at the end of December 2014 to 46,550 at the end of December 2016. See Figure 1.

This means that countless requesters – including reporters, scholars, and those subject to immigration actions – are not getting the information they need to check against unlawful actions and to better hold the government accountable to the governed.

requests_changeFigure 1. Backlog of Unanswered USCIS FOIA Requests

Little improvement has occurred in USCIS’s processing of FOIA requests. While the number of FOIA requests the agency receives has been increasing, during the last quarter of FY 2016 the number of closed FOIA cases took a precipitous tumble, falling from a monthly average of 13,913 in June 2016 to only 211 during October 2016. Closures have only recovered slightly to just 1,400 during December 2016.

These figures are based upon an independent analysis of request-by-request data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in response to the quarterly survey conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University for the FOIA Project.

The latest figures on FOIA backlogs and wait times for federal agencies responding to TRAC’s latest quarterly survey are now posted on FOIAproject.org. Updated figures are available for:

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