On November 19, 2013, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and co-counsel at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP has reached a settlement, signed by the presiding judge, in Martins v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which challenged the agency’s withholding of asylum interview notes, taken by asylum officers to document the content of the interviews of asylum applicants.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this year, challenged the withholding of the notes under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the cases of ten individual clients represented by the plaintiff, immigration attorney Jeffrey Martins, and also challenged the agency’s policy and practice of withholding the notes as a categorical matter. In July, the plaintiff won his motion for a preliminary injunction, and the government then produced the notes – without any redactions – for all ten of the asylum seekers whose notes were specifically at issue in the litigation.

According to American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the settlement brings an end to the underlying policy and practice that has affected asylum applicants and their legal representatives across the country. Under the settlement agreement, USCIS must instruct all officers, employees, and agents involved in the processing of FOIA requests that asylum officer interview notes – the records reflecting information, instructions, and questions asked by officers and responses given by applicants in asylum interviews – are not by their nature and status protected by the deliberative process privilege as a general matter and thus are to be produced under FOIA. This training must be completed within three months of the settlement agreement. USCIS must demonstrate its compliance to the court with the settlement after 3 months.

Asylum interview notes are an important part of the asylum applicant’s file.  Especially if you only hire a lawyer after your case is referred to immigration court, it is crucial for your attorney to have a full understanding of what happened during your initial asylum interview. A good asylum lawyer will use that knowledge to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case and provide you with the best representation possible.

Attorneys at I.S. Law Firm thoroughly prepare every client for their interviews and court hearings. We collect country condition reports and submit memorandum in support of every asylum petition we handle. At the asylum interview or court hearing, our attorney makes sure that our client’s case is adequately presented and there are no misunderstandings or confusion. Although every case is unique and the same results cannot be guaranteed in your specific case, our firm has over 95% success rate from asylum offices around the country. We pay individual attention to every client, make every case personal to us, and put all of our efforts to not just do our job, but to win every case.

Professionals at I.S. Law Firm have helped many people from different countries to obtain asylum in the United States. If you think you may qualify for asylum, or to explore other immigration options, please contact us by phone at +1-703-527-1779 or via e-mail: [email protected].