American Immigration Lawyers Association Sues DHS, USCIS Over H-1B Transparency
The American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC) filed a lawsuit on July 20, 2010, against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), seeking the public release of records on agency policies and procedures for the H-1B visa program.
AILA had pursued disclosure of the documents through two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, both of which were denied. In its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, AILA seeks the court’s intervention to compel the government to release the requested records.
The FOIA litigation centers on the government’s H-1B visa review and processing procedures. The H-1B program, administered by USCIS, allows U.S. businesses to temporarily employ foreign workers, such as scientists, engineers, and computer programmers, in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields. Since 2008, the LAC noted, USCIS has implemented new, more stringent procedures for review and processing and has dramatically increased the frequency of unannounced H-1B worksite inspections, which are expected to reach 25,000 in 2010. Yet “USCIS has kept secret the rules and guidelines related to the review process,” the LAC said. “The dearth of publicly available information on the government’s heightened scrutiny of H-1B applications makes it particularly difficult for businesses to anticipate and meet agency expectations during the application process.”
“It is in the public and the agency’s interest to release the documents sought by AILA,” said Mary Kenney, an attorney at the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center. “The documents will help employers and foreign workers who seek immigration benefits comply with the law. Further, the agency violated FOIA when it issued wholesale denials of AILA’s FOIA requests.” AILA is also represented in the litigation by Steptoe & Johnson LLP.