We are thrilled to announce that, in response to a lawsuit filed by Innovation Law Lab and the National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA) against the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), USCIS has made two important immigration staff manuals available to the public in its electronic reading room. The release of these documents is a critical step for ensuring transparency for noncitizens in expedited removal and reinstatement proceedings.   

 Innovation Law Lab first sought the Credible Fear Procedures and Reasonable Fear Procedures Manuals through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request exactly one year ago, on April 24, 2023. USCIS uses these manuals to make the consequential determination of whether immigrants in fast-tracked removal proceedings, including expedited removal and reinstatement, who express a fear of persecution or torture will have the opportunity to pursue their claims for protection in the United States or be deported without ever seeing an immigration judge.

In February 2024, Innovation Law Lab and NILA filed suit, in the District Court of Oregon, to hold USCIS to account for its failure to respond to the FOIA request. The complaint alleged that USCIS is legally required to  publicly and proactively disclose these manuals to ensure asylum seekers facing immediate deportation are not left in the dark.

One year after the FOIA request was filed with USCIS, the current versions of these manuals are finally available to the public. 

This outcome is a significant victory for transparency in immigration processes. The availability of these Manuals will empower individuals and their legal representatives to have a better understanding of the immigration processes necessary to seek protection in the United States. Ensuring that USCIS makes its policies and manuals public is a step towards ensuring that all stakeholders are well-informed and can navigate the system more effectively.