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FOIA: Refugee data and recordkeeping

IRAP filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit seeking records from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the State Department (DOS) about the demographics, processing, and adjudication of applications for admission to the United States as a refugee through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), which has long provided a pathway for refugees to reach safety and security within the United States.

Impact

President Biden pledged to rebuild and expand USRAP after its decimation by the Trump Administration and bring greater transparency to refugee processing. However, processing issues left over from the Trump administration continue to plague refugee applicants, including IRAP’s clients, and as of January 31, 2023, the Biden Administration has admitted nearly 13,000 fewer refugees than Trump did at the same stage of his term.

This case seeks anonymized refugee case data and certain records for case management systems maintained and used by USCIS and DOS when processing and adjudicating a refugee’s application for admission to the United States. The records requested through this lawsuit will bring the backlogs for refugee cases in USRAP to the public, and identify how changes to the program over the past eight years have affected processing times and outcomes, particularly as to refugee populations that have faced marginalization and discrimination within USRAP.

Case status

IRAP is reviewing USCIS’s and DOS’s ongoing productions of case management systems records to assess the reasonableness of the agencies’ searches and the appropriateness of their claimed withholdings. IRAP and DOS are negotiating the production of refugee case data.

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