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I Don’t Know what Immigration Knows about me! What can I do?

Question: I believe I qualify to apply for residency at this point. However, I’m unsure what immigration and other agencies may have on me. I was turned back at the border many years ago, but do not remember signing anything. Additionally, I had a previous attorney file some documents for me. However, he is out of business and I’m not sure what was or was not filed. Is there a way that I can find out was filed?

Answer: There is what is known as a FOIA which is an acronym for Freedom of Information Request. This is a procedure whereby you can request information on yourself and within a reasonable period, the government will send you a copy of your file. For the most part, you will be able to see what information they have on you. Thereafter, you will be able to make an informed decision as to what to do.

Question: How do I know which government agency to send the request for my file?

Answer: Most agencies will have information on how to send a FOIA request. Here are a few: 1) Executive Office of Immigration Review (Immigration Courts and Board of Immigration Appeals) FOIA webpage: http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir/mainfoia.html; 2) USCIS FOIA webpage: http://uscis.gov/graphics/aboutus/foia/index.htm; 3) DHS (Department of Homeland Security) FOIA webpage: http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display? theme=48; 4) DOS (Department of State) FOIA webpage: http://foia.state.gov/ AboutFOIA.asp and 5) DOL (Department of Labor) FOIA webpage: http://www.dol.gov/ dol/foia/main.htm

Question: What exactly is the law on FOIA’s?

Answer: A FOIA is in regards to information the agency has on you. Each agency shall make available to the public information as follows: (1) Each agency shall separately state and currently publish in the Federal Register for the guidance of the public— (A) descriptions of its central and field organization and the established places at which, the employees (and in the case of a uniformed service, the members) from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information, make submittals or requests, or obtain decisions; (B) statements of the general course and method by which its functions are channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures available; (C) rules of procedure, descriptions of forms available or the places at which forms may be obtained, and instructions as to the scope and contents of all papers, reports, or examinations; (D) substantive rules of general applicability adopted as authorized by law, and statements of general policy or interpretations of general applicability formulated and adopted by the agency; and (E) each amendment, revision, or repeal of the foregoing.

Question: What exactly must the public agency provide?

Answer: Each agency, in accordance with published rules, shall make available for public inspection and copying— (A) final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases; (B) those statements of policy and interpretations which have been adopted by the agency and are not published in the Federal Register; (C) administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public; (D) copies of all records, regardless of form or format, which have been released to any person which, because of the nature of their subject matter, the agency determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records.

Question: Is it possible to expedite the request?

Answer: Yes it is under special circumstances relating to the integrity of the government. However, normally this procedure takes between one and four months.

Therefore, you should not let the fact that the government has adverse information on you from finding out exactly what that information is. It is your right.

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