INS Agrees to Respond More Quickly to Requests for Information
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Aliens fighting deportation have won the right to a speedy reply to requests for government files under an agreement with immigration authorities.
The agreement, announced Tuesday, settled a lawsuit filed against the San Francisco office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service by an immigration attorney.
In his 1985 lawsuit, James Mayock accused INS of taking months and sometimes years to respond to aliens’ Freedom of Information Act requests - their only avenue for finding out what the government knows about them.
The law requires the agency to respond in 10 working days.
Among other things, the settlement requires INS to respond quickly to requests for evidence that might involve an alien’s life, safety or legal rights.
The settlement imposes a strict 10-day time limit on the San Francisco office only; other offices across the country are required only to give priority to urgent cases.
The settlement is ″an enlightened approach by the INS,″ said attorney Eric Sinrod, who argued the lawsuit on Mayock’s behalf.
Justice Department spokesman Joe Krovisky said, ″We feel that we’re not doing anything now that we weren’t doing already.″
In a 1989 ruling in the case, U.S. District Judge Charles Legge found that INS was dragging its feet in meeting requests, in some cases not producing documents until after an alien was deported.
A federal appeals court overturned that ruling in July, saying the government deserved reconsideration of its claim that such things as a heavy caseload and lack of money could keep it from meeting the 10-day deadline.
The settlement avoids further hearings in the case.
Sinrod said the San Francisco office has complied with the 10-day deadline since Legge’s order and has reduced its average processing time to five days despite last year’s appeals court ruling.