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Isa Peña
isa@innovationlawlab.org
503-334-8718

     

Media Contact Information:

Victor Romero-Hernandez, Communications & Media Manager, Innovation Law Lab

victor@innovationlawlab.org

Kristin Macleod-Ball, Senior Staff Attorney, National Immigration Litigation Alliance

kristin@immigrationlitigation.org

 

Innovation Law Lab Sues USCIS to Demand Transparency in the Expedited Removal Process 

Portland, OR – On February 21, 2024, Innovation Law Lab filed suit against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The lawsuit demands that USCIS publicly disclose two specific manuals: the Credible Fear Procedures Manual (CFPM) and the Reasonable Fear Procedures Manual (RFPM). USCIS uses these manuals to decide whether individuals who express a fear of return to their home countries will be deported or have the opportunity to seek asylum. In the nearly ten months since Innovation Law Lab requested these manuals, USCIS has refused to make them public and has not provided them to Innovation Law Lab.

“The ongoing refusal by USCIS to provide these essential manuals leaves people seeking asylum in the dark about crucial information that directly affects their safety and rights,” said Ian Philabaum, Innovation Law Lab’s Director of Legal Organizing. “It is critical that USCIS make these manuals available to legal service providers so that we can provide thorough and accurate orientation to asylum seekers. This lack of transparency reveals an indifference to migrants’ lives on the part of USCIS, and it is long overdue to hold them to account.”

The lawsuit was filed today in the District Court for the District of Oregon by attorneys from Innovation Law Lab and the National Immigration Litigation Alliance. The complaint seeks the public release of the requested manuals in order to ensure transparency in expedited removal processes overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Both manuals detail the procedural framework through which USCIS staff evaluate claims of fear of persecution or torture from individuals who may be subject to fast-tracked deportation without ever seeing an immigration judge.

“It is unacceptable that individuals seeking protection from deportation are kept in the dark about the procedures and criteria that USCIS employs during credible and reasonable fear interviews,” said Tess Hellgren, Director of Legal Advocacy at Innovation Law Lab. “These agency guidelines must be made accessible to the public to ensure a transparent and  comprehensive understanding of the process by which individuals’ claims for protection are evaluated.”

“Government agencies are required to make important policy statements and staff manuals available to the public,” said Kristin Macleod-Ball, Senior Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Litigation Alliance. “USCIS should not be permitted to keep the policies governing its treatment of vulnerable asylum seekers in the shadows.”

 

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Innovation Law Lab leverages law, technology and organizing to end isolation and exploitation of immigrants and refugees, build permanent pathways to immigrant inclusion, and advance justice.

The National Immigration Litigation Alliance works to realize systemic change in the immigrant rights’ arena by engaging in impact litigation and by building the capacity of social justice attorneys to litigate in federal court.