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ICE’s FOIA Office Backlog Shows Ballooning Wait Times

by FOIA Project Staff on May 30th, 2013

Syracuse, NY — The median time FOIA requests have been waiting unanswered in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s backlog has climbed 64 percent in just the last sixty days. During this period according to ICE records, receipts of new FOIA requests and monthly closure numbers have not noticeably changed so the rise may reflect management problems in ICE’s FOIA office.

Figure 1. Median Days Unanswered FOIA Requests Still Waiting for Response

Median Days Unanswered FOIA Requests Still Waiting for Response

These results are based upon very current ICE FOIA request-by-request records analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

The numbers are stark. See Figure 1. At the end of March, the median calendar days requests had been waiting unanswered was 64 days. By the end of April, this had risen to 81 days. Now as the end of May approaches it has ballooned to 105 days. This means that currently half of ICE’s backlog of pending requests have been waiting for more than 105 days unanswered. ICE’s oldest request has been waiting unanswered for 669 days.

It is unclear whether either ICE’s or DHS’s FOIA offices are aware of the seriousness of these growing response delays. Both ICE FOIA Officer Catrina Pavlik-Keenan and Dr. James V.M.L. Holzer, DHS Director of Disclosure & FOIA Operations were contacted by TRAC. However, neither have responded to TRAC’s inquiries asking for information on this situation.

From → FOIA, Reports

One Comment
  1. Geoffrey Heeren permalink

    ICE’s FOIA backlog has been steadily increasing: it went from having a backlog of 18 cases at the end of the 2011 to having a backlog of 2,443 cases at the end of 2012. My best guess as to the reason for this increase (and the recent one you have documented) is that USCIS’s FOIA unit has begun referring to ICE those portions of FOIA requests for A files that relate to documents generated by ICE. In other words, rather than simply turn over documents in A files that were generated by ICE, USCIS now electronically refers these documents to ICE for processing. This marks a shift as far as I can tell from a decision that DHS made in 2007 to centralize FOIA processing of A file requests with USCIS. No doubt it has caused a considerable strain on ICE’s FOIA processing unit. Since you note that receipts of new requests and closures have not changed much, I am guessing that the backlog is being generated by ICE’s efforts to deal with USCIS FOIA referrals.

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