Request for USCIS’s I-918 (U)- and I-914 (T)-visa issuing statistics

Dongjae Jung filed this request with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the United States of America.
Tracking # APP2013001803
Status
Rejected

Communications

From: Dongjae Jung

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

USCIS has already released U- and T-visa statistics by fiscal year, but this data shows only the total number of visas issued, and there is no information how many U- and T-visas were issued to what localities. Therefore, I request the following data/statistics:

1) I-918 (U) visa statistics (totals) for FY2009 through FY2012 by localities: total number of applications received, approved, and denied by year
2) I-914 (T) visa statistics (totals) for FY2009 through FY2012 by localities: total number of applications received, approved, and denied by year

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Dongjae Jung

From: MuckRock

Hello,

Please amend the FOIA request below submitted on November 11, 2013 to the following:

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To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

USCIS has already released U- and T-visa statistics by fiscal year, but this data shows only the total number of visas issued, and there is no information how many U- and T-visas were issued to what localities. Therefore, I request the following data/statistics:

1) Form I-918 application for U Nonimmigrant visa statistics (totals) for FY2009 through FY2012 by localities: total number of applications received, approved, and denied by year
2) Form I-914 application for T Nonimmigrant visa statistics (totals) for FY2009 through FY2012 by localities: total number of applications received, approved, and denied by year

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Dongjae Jung

=============

Thank you.

From: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

A fix is required to perfect the requesfix is required to perfect the request.

From: Dongjae Jung

From: Dongjae Jung

In compliance with your response to my previous FOIA request, here is my response.

From: Dongjae Jung
To:
USCIS FOIA/PA Appeals Office
150 Space Center Loop, Suite 500
Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-2139

This is an appeal of COW2013000915, in which I am considered as a “commercial requester” by your agency.

As a researcher and doctoral candidate in the School of Public Administration at Arizona State University, my goal is to critically analyze U.S. immigration policy and related dynamics at the intergovernmental level. To do so, as a researcher, I am collecting public data from federal agencies dealing with immigration and migration-related policy. Your agency sometimes does not release concrete information for various reasons, and under this situation, people have the right to request that your agency provide more concrete and transparent information to increase “public understanding of the operations or activities of the government,” as your agency said in the response to my initial Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Your agency said that my FOIA request is considered as a commercial request because “MuckRock sells it services to file FOIA requests; MuckRock is considered as a commercial requester” so my FOIA fee waiver was denied. I argue that I am not a commercial requester for buying or selling public information. I am a researcher working in the academic field. I have no intention to sell or buy public information, and MuckRock is an “open-government tool” for increasing public understanding and public accessibility to government, not a commercial request company doing business with FOIA requests.

Please think about why people attempt to utilize a more professional and systematic investigative tool, such as MuckRock, to make FOIA requests. It is “too difficult” for the general public to access a federal agency’s public information, although they have a legitimate to do so. According to recent data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse’s FOIA Project (http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/foiaproject/lawsuit/) analyzing how the federal government provides timely and complete information to the public under FOIA, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the second largest number of FOIA lawsuits, 460, during FY2001 through FY2013. Of DHS-related FOIA lawsuits, your agency, USCIS, has the largest number of FOIA lawsuits, 98, during the same period, or more than 21% of the total. This data clearly shows that your agency tends to be resistant to FOIA requests from the public. The main reason that the public uses online open and investigative tools such as MuckRock is due to this difficulty; this does not mean the users of MuckRock are “commercial” requesters as your agency argues.

MuckRock is a kind of by-product and effective investigative tool for meeting the public’s difficulties when they seek information from the federal government. Having a full understanding and experience of the very time-consuming process of acquiring hard-to-access public records, MuckRock streamlines and supports the whole FOIA request process for the public, via a subscription service. However, this subscription fee is a service fee that MuckRock uses to provide technical support when the users attempt to make a FOIA request; it is NEVER related to selling or buying public information from FOIA requests.

Second, your agency’s interpretation on the “commercial” use of a FOIA request is arbitrary and sometimes too expansive. According to the USCIS FOIA Request Guide (http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/About%20Us/FOIA/uscisfoiarequestguide(10).pdf), the “Commercial Use Request” on FOIA-related fee refers to “a request from or on behalf of a person who seeks information for a use or purpose that further the commercial, trade, or profit interests of the requester” (p. 13). According to your response to my FOIA request, I as the “commercial requester” seek your agency’s information for getting profitable interests via MuckRock as an agent. This interpretation is an absolutely wrong and arbitrarily undermines a researcher’s legitimate public information request with hints of “immoral” intention based on profitability.

Administrative decisions or judgments in the process of public management and administration should be clearly and carefully made; this is related to the administrative or managerial discretion of public officials. If your agency still argues “MuckRock is considered as a commercial requester” on FOIA requests, please provide concrete and legitimate reasons. If the only reason is that MuckRock sells a subscription service to its users for supporting technical efficiency in the process of making FOIA requests, your agency is absolutely confused about the FOIA requester’s intention. MuckRock never intervenes for the users to make their FOIA requests; MuckRock provides “technical” support for users to swiftly send FOIA requests to federal agencies and effectively track how respective users’ requests are processed. If MuckRock intentionally uses users’ FOIA requests or attempts to sell or buy somebody or an organization, that is a “commercial” activity as your agency pointed out. However, as I argue, such as activity is never allowed under the MuckRock system.

Please reconsider why a fee waiver of this FOIA was denied and how open-government tools can be used for increasing public understanding and accessibility of federal information. Should you deny my appeal, please let me know so I may determine how best to proceed.

I will expect to receive your agency’s decision within 20 business days.

Regards,

Dongjae Jung

To Whom It May Concern:

Here is a revise version of my FOIA request to USCIS. According to USCIS's response, USCIS asked me to narrow my FOIA request for the fast track, but I think my initial request is not a complicated one. I request the previous USCIS's data/statistical release format, with a slight revision.

As I mentioned in the previous FOIA request, I requested from your agency how many U (I-918) and T (I-914) visa applications have been made, approved, and denied by localities (at the county level).

Your agency has nicely released these statistics, called “Data on Victims of Trafficking in Person and Victims of Crime” (http://www.uscis.gov/node/41879/http/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Reports%20and%20Studies/Immigration%20Forms%20Data/Victims/I914t-I918u_visastatistics_fy2013_qtr2.pdf), but this statistics shows data only in terms of fiscal years. That is, it shows the total statistics on how many U and T visa applications have been processed from your agency per fiscal year, but there is no information on how many T and U visa applications are applied, accepted, and denied from which localities (counties). As a researcher, I want to know the related specific localities on these visa applications.

Please keep your existing data release format, as this: http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Reports%20and%20Studies/Immigration%20Forms%20Data/Victims/I914t-I918u_visastatistics_2012-dec.pdf
However, the left column on this table can be replaced by “localities” per fiscal year (FY2009 through FY2012). I need only the “total” number of statistics on U and T visa application, not “victims” and “family of victims” on these visa applications. I request the following data/statistics:

1) Form I-918 application for U Nonimmigrant visa statistics (totals) for FY2009 through FY2012 by county: total number of applications received, approved, and denied by year
2) Form I-914 application for T Nonimmigrant visa statistics (totals) for FY2009 through FY2012 by county: total number of applications received, approved, and denied by year

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Nov. 11, 2013. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: FOIA, USCIS

USCIS has received information submitted from you to the FOIA mailbox. If you are submitting a FOIA request, this courtesy reply does not replace the Acknowledgement Letter which will be sent to you once your request has been scanned into our FOIA processing system. As this reply is automatically generated, do not respond to this notification.

The USCIS FOIA mailbox relates to the Freedom of Information (FOIA) or Privacy Act (PA) requests for a copy of immigration records (alien files; or petition or application receipt files).

For Status of Pending Applications or Petitions or other Immigration Matters:
The USCIS National Records Center does not process petitions, applications or any other type of benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act. If you have questions or wish to submit documentation relating to a pending application or petition or any other immigration matter, you must contact your local USCIS Office or our National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833). You may also visit www.uscis.gov<http://www.uscis.gov@@ for answers. There is also information on the web-site for scheduling an INFOPASS appointment at your local USCIS office.

If you are outside the United States and need more information concerning United States immigration, please contact the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
________________________________________________________

Visa/Travel Inquiries:
If you have questions about an F-1, F-3, J-1, M-1, or M-3 Visa, please click on the following link: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/faq.htm.

For other Visa or travel information, please visit www.travel.state.gov@@http://www.travel.state.gov@@.
________________________________________________________

Reports of Fraud or Suspicious Activity:
The email will be forwarded to the appropriate office. To report any suspicious activity call 1-866-347-2423 or www.ice.gov@@http://www.ice.gov> or you may call your local law enforcement or local USCIS office.
_______________________________________________________

How to submit a FOIA Request to USCIS for A Copy of Immigration Records:
You may fill out the G-639 which may be downloaded from http://www.uscis.gov/g-639, for each subject you are seeking records. Please provide a valid mailing address. The completion of this form is optional. Any written format for a Freedom of Information or Privacy Act request is acceptable but the information and signatures requested need to be provided, in order to prevent a delay in processing.

Please provide as much information as possible in block 2. While you are not required to respond to all items in block 2, failure to provide complete and specific information as requested may result in a delay in processing or an inability to locate the record(s) or information requested.

If you are submitting a FOIA request regarding an individual other than yourself, a signed agreement by the subject of the FOIA request is needed authorizing release of that individual's records to you; a signature block is provided on page 2 of the G-639 in block 3. If records requested are for an individual born less than 100 years ago and the individual is deceased, you will need to forward either a death certificate or some type of information showing the individual is deceased.

On page 2 of the G-639, please ensure that the information for the subject of record is provided and that the signature of the subject of record appears in block 4. In block 4, the subject of record may sign under penalty of perjury either under "Executed outside the United States" or "Executed in the United States" OR the signature of subject of record may be notarized.

A request for a specific document will be placed on a faster track than a request for an entire file. There is additional information about the FOIA multi-track system at www.uscis.gov/foia.

You can submit the requests one of the following ways:

Via U.S. Mail to:

National Records Center
FOIA/PA Office
P.O. Box 648010
Lee's Summit, MO 64064-8010

Or: Via Fax: 816-350-5785 or 802-288-1793

Or: Via e-mail by scanning your documents in and attaching them to your e-mail to uscis.foia@dhs.gov<mailto:uscis.foia@dhs.gov>.

_________________________________________________

If you have a FOIA control number, you may check the status of your FOIA request online, at www.uscis.gov/foia. Click on Check Status of Request button and follow the instructions. We process cases on a first in / first out basis. The estimated time posted on the USCIS web site is based on our average processing time in business days as of the date posted and includes all cases closed.

Thank you.

FOIA, USCIS
www.uscis.gov/foia<http://www.uscis.gov/foia>
USCIS.FOIA@dhs.gov<mailto:USCIS.FOIA@dhs.gov>

WARNING: This document is FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY (FOUO). It contains information that may be exempt from public release under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552). This document is to be controlled, handled, transmitted, distributed, and disposed of in accordance with DHS policy relating to Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information and is not to be released to the public or other personnel who do not have a valid "need-to-know" without prior approval from the originator.

From: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

The request has been rejectedby the agency.

From: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

A letter stating the request for reduced or waived fees has been rejected.

From: Dongjae Jung

Please tell me estimated costs and how I can make a payment for processing my FOIA request.

Dongjae Jung

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Nov. 11, 2013. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #APP2013001803.

Thank you for your help.

From: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

A letter stating that the request appeal has been rejected.

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