Justice Department Tries to Shut Down IRLI Lawsuit for Anti-Borders Activist’s Emails

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February 23, 2024

What is USCIS hiding?

WASHINGTON —In the latest example of the federal government’s lack of transparency and stonewalling, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) against United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to obtain the agency’s emails with radical “Abolish ICE” founder Tania Mattos.

Filed by the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the District of Columbia, a component of DOJ, acting as counsel for USCIS, the motion claims IRLI’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit does not “reasonably describe” the records IRLI seeks and should therefore be dismissed. This is despite the fact that IRLI’s original FOIA request merely asked for USCIS employee emails with a single person, Mattos, between January 20, 2021 and May 11, 2022. 

Under FOIA, a federal agency is supposed to determine how it will respond and produce the relevant records within twenty working days. IRLI’s suit was filed in November 2023 because USCIS had still produced nothing in response to its request in roughly a year and a half.

IRLI has filed a vigorous response to DOJ’s motion, detailing why dismissal would undermine the entire purpose for which Congress enacted FOIA in the first place. And should the court erroneously grant the motion and dismiss IRLI’s suit, IRLI would almost certainly appeal. 

“If USCIS and Tania Mattos were truly working for the good of the country and its citizens, then there should be no problem allowing sunlight on their emails,” said Dale L Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “That the agency is fighting against transparency so fiercely here suggests they are involved with this illegal immigration activist in a way that would embarrass USCIS and outrage the public. The American people deserve the truth on this, and IRLI will continue to pursue it.”   

“Any reasonable, prudent citizen has to be wondering what the government is trying to hide and why ICE would be willing to work with the founder of ‘Abolish ICE,’” said Matt O’Brien, IRLI director of investigations. “We’re pushing ICE to come clean and shed light on what appears to be a huge conflict of interest.”

The case is Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) v. USCIS, No. 23-cv-3429 (D.D.C.).

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