How A FOIA Request Can Win Your Asylum Case
Asylum hearings in Immigration Court are among the more difficult processes. The basic role of the government attorney is to find the pitfalls in the applicant's case. Thus, It is essential to hire an experienced attorney who will explain the weaknesses of the case BEFORE the hearing.
Asylum Officer's NotesMany asylum applicants apply before U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services and, when denied, they are then referred to Immigration Court. In these cases, the applicant already gave testimony to an Immigration Officer, who took notes. The government attorney in court will review these notes and the details of what the applicant said at the interview. This has proved damaging in the past because applicants had no way to prepare for the questions based on these notes.
Apply for a FOIAA Freedom of Information Act request is an application that foreign nationals mail to obtain a copy of all records Immigration has on their case. Until recently, the asylum officer's notes would not be included. What was worse, the foreign national cannot force the Asylum Officer to answer questions, to determine whether the notes were correctly written.
Recent ChangeIn Martins v. USCIS, 10 asylum applicants challenged the government's policy on withholding these notes. Asylum applicants were given a huge victory in December 2013 when a settlement was reached which requires the government to disclose these notes in a FOIA request. This will allow applicants an opportunity to prepare a proper defense to their case.