Lawsuit Seeks Transparency in CBP Admission Procedures

Lawsuit Seeks Transparency in CBP Admission Procedures

December 21, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), represented by the American Immigration Council and Foley & Lardner LLP, filed a lawsuit to compel U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and to request release of the CBP Officer's Reference Tool (ORT). The ORT replaced the CBP Inspector's Field Manual (IFM), which previously provided guidance regarding the inspection and admission of individuals into the United States at U.S. ports of entry. AILA seeks to ensure that CBP makes a copy of the ORT available to the public, as it did with the IFM.

William A. Stock, AILA President, noted, "Can a tourist visa be used to get medical treatment? What visa should a corporate director use to attend a board meeting in the United States? What process is used if CBP thinks a green card holder abandoned his or her status? These are some of the daily, detailed questions about how our visa laws are administered that were answered in the IFM. 'Secret law' known only to the adjudicator is not fair, and AILA first requested information about the transition from the IFM to the ORT more than three years ago in an effort to ensure our members, their clients, and the public are aware of the policies and procedures that CBP follows during the inspection and admissions process. When no information was provided, we filed a FOIA request. Unfortunately, CBP has still failed to disclose any information regarding the ORT, even after filing an appeal in 2015. CBP's refusal to share any information from the ORT is perplexing as it should never have been hidden from the public in the first place."

The American Immigration Council's Legal Director, Melissa Crow, agreed, "CBP unfortunately has a long history of ignoring requests for information that may be inconvenient. However, the contents of the ORT are necessary to understand the policies that CBP officers follow when making decisions that change the lives of immigrants and their families every single day. The ORT's predecessor, the IFM, was in large part available to the public and contained a wealth of information, addressing standards for admission, acceptable evidence, and details regarding the inspection process, without compromising national security or legitimate law enforcement objectives. The only way to hold government agencies accountable is to ensure that transparency exists. Our lawsuit asks the court to compel CBP to comply with the law and promptly release this information."

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