Access to Counsel Before CBP

Access to Counsel Before CBP

American Immigration Council v. DHS, 30 F. Supp. 3d 67 (D.D.C. 2014); 82 F. Supp. 3d 396 (D.D.C. 2015)

STATUS:
Closed

The American Immigration Council, with co-counsel Dorsey & Whitney LLP, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to compel the release of records relating to noncitizens’ access to counsel. The Council initially pursued disclosure of these records through a FOIA request filed in March 2011. Despite the importance of counsel to immigrants appearing before DHS, the thousands of immigrants who are required to appear at agency examinations or proceedings every year may face barriers to accessing counsel. Federal law clearly provides a right to legal representation in many proceedings before DHS, but that right is often unrecognized, restricted, or denied. 

After the Council filed suit, CBP filed a motion for summary judgment in January 2012, asserting that it was unable to uncover any records responsive to our request. In March 2012, after the Council filed its opposition brief, CBP moved to withdraw its motion. The agency then conducted additional document searches and released several productions of responsive documents. Following discussions with the Council, CBP produced additional records and released less redacted versions of previously located documents. The Council released a summary of the documents obtained from CBP, which show a lack of detailed nationwide guidance and suggest that CBP policies and practices on access to counsel in primary, secondary, and deferred inspections and CBP detention facilities vary from one office to another.

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