Advocates File Lawsuit Challenging U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Chronic Delays in Responding to FOIA Requests

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 24, 2024


SAN FRANCISCO, Apr. 24, 2024—Today, three immigration attorneys and two individuals filed a prospective class action lawsuit in federal court, challenging U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) nationwide practice of failing to timely respond to requests for immigration records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

FOIA gives individuals the right to access information that the federal government possesses about them within 20, or at most 30, business days of requesting the records. Yet CBP routinely takes at least 6 months—and in some cases more than a year—to process the requests. Absent these records, Plaintiffs, and others like them, are forced to delay their immigration cases and put off filing applications for benefits, as they endure prolonged delays while waiting for CBP to release records to which they are legally entitled.

The case, Sanchez Mora v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, alleges that CBP’s delays violate the law and harm requestors. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Francisco, more than seven years after CBP settled a similar case, Brown v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Plaintiffs in the newly filed Sanchez Mora case allege that CBP, after previously taking steps to timely process FOIA requests in compliance with the law, has since moved backward, permitting a backlog of thousands of delayed FOIA requests.

The plaintiffs are Julian Sanchez Mora, Siobhan Waldron, Carlos Moctezuma García, Brenda Canudas Tirado, and Ali Ainab. The lawsuit was filed by attorneys from the National Immigration Litigation Alliance, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and Van Der Hout LLP. Plaintiffs are asking the Court to issue a permanent injunction ordering CBP to clear the backlog of pending FOIA requests and to respond to future FOIA requests within the statutory period. 

“Thousands of individuals and their attorneys are left in limbo, unable to move forward on their immigration cases, because CBP refuses to comply with the law and provide them timely access to their records,” said Trina Realmuto, executive director of the National Immigration Litigation Alliance. “This backlog is all the more disturbing given the dramatic expansion of resources Congress has bestowed on CBP over the last eight years.”

“The systemic delays are particularly egregious because CBP demonstrated that they had the means to fix the problem after the previous lawsuit we filed in Brown,” said Matt Adams, legal director at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

“CBP must be held to account for its inexplicable delays in processing straightforward FOIA requests filed by individuals who have a right to their own information—information that is critical to their and their family members’ ability to obtain immigration status in the United States,” said Johnny Sinodis, a partner at Van Der Hout LLP.

A copy of the complaint is here.

For press inquiries, contact:

Trina Realmuto, National Immigration Litigation Alliance: (617) 819-4447, trina@immigrationlitigation.org

Matt Adams, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project: (206) 957-8611, matt@nwirp.org

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The National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA) is an immigrants’ rights nonprofit that strives to protect, enforce, and expand the rights of noncitizens and individuals perceived to be noncitizens by engaging in impact litigation and by building the capacity of immigration attorneys to litigate in federal court. Follow NILA at www.immigrationlitigation.org, on Twitter at @NILA_ImmLit, and on Facebook at NatImmLitAlliance.

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