Federal Judge Rules “National Security” is too Vague to Justify Hiding Documents in Immigration Case

Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Judge Tanya Chutkan (photo: U.S. District Court)

In a case challenging immigration rules used by the U.S. government, a federal judge has told officials they cannot hide behind “national security” to justify withholding documents requested by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).


The ACLU has tried since 2012 to obtain immigration records explaining “policies for the identification, vetting and adjudication of immigration benefits applications with national security concerns.” The organization believes that Muslim and Arab applicants are treated differently from others and wants the documents to see if this is the case.


But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has refused to release the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Officials say to comply with the ACLU’s request would create national security risks.


U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is hearing the ACLU’s lawsuit, challenged government lawyers who, she said, had been too vague in denying the request. Chutkan wrote (pdf) that it was “particularly puzzling” that for some documents there was “no explanation of how the information, if released, could risk circumvention of the law, no explanation of what laws would purportedly be circumvented, and little detail regarding what law enforcement purpose is involved (other than vague references to ‘national security concerns.’)


“This is not enough to justify withholding records under the FOIA,” the judge said.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

‘National Security’ Too Vague in Immigration FOIA Case (by Elizabeth Warmerdam, Courthouse News Service)

American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia) (pdf)

Immigration Service Refuses to Release 6,000 Pages in Whistleblower Case (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment