FOIA Lawsuit Demands Release of Information on the Institutional Hearing Program


This Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the Southern District of New York sought information from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) on the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP), which it runs jointly with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).   

What is Concerning About the IHP? 

The IHP, also known as the Institutional Removal Program (IRP), is an extension of the immigration courts operating in federal, state and local jails and prisons under the guise of expediting deportation for individuals who are serving sentences for criminal offenses. However, the program operates largely outside of public view and with little regard for due process. Despite the program’s shortcomings, the Trump administration announced an expansion of the program in February of 2017. 

Why Was this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request Filed? 

The FOIA lawsuit aimed to obtain crucial information about the program’s expansion, what individuals are targeted for IHP proceedings, whether these individuals are represented by counsel, whether they apply for relief from deportation and if so, what kind of relief and the outcome, and whether EOIR evaluates any of those noncitizens for competency in accordance with agency precedent. The lawsuit also requested the federal agencies’ updated uniform intake policy referenced in a December 2017 Department of Justice memorandum.     

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) were also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  

What Records Did the Government Release? 

EOIR produced some internal documents related to the IHP, including informal and partial lists of facilities used in the IHP and data on case completions. However, the agency did not release a comprehensive or current list of jails, prisons, and other facilities that participate in IHP. 

The Council used the information from the government and partnered with UCLA School of Law to create a map of the IHP in the United States. The map shows hearing locations and facilities participating in the IHP as of 2019.  

For details on the IHP locations and access other resources related to the program, see the full map here: Where the Institutional Hearing Program Operates in the United States.

Follow this case:

  • The Council, along with AILA and the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) seeking information relating to the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP).
  • July 19, 2019
    The American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Immigrant Defense Project filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court to compel the government to release records and data about the Department of Justice’s Institutional Hearing Program, an obscure program that expedites the deportation of immigrants who are serving time for criminal offenses. The lawsuit seeks to understand how the IHP operates, where it operates, and who it targets.
  • Publication Date: 
    November 29, 2021
    The Institutional Hearing Program permits immigration judges to conduct removal proceedings for noncitizens serving criminal sentences in certain correctional facilities.

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