Crisis Management Now Routine at ICE FOIA Office
(05 Sep 2017) FOIA managers at Immigration and Customs Enforcement do not appear to monitor the processing of FOIA requests on a regular basis to ensure requests move smoothly through their work queues. Instead, ICE managers allow many requests to stall somewhere in the process until the end of the fiscal year approaches. Only then is there any apparent systematic attempt to ensure that older cases get attention. Then a mad scramble to close out stalled cases occurs.

In 2016, for example, the monthly FOIA closures numbered around 4,500 each month. Then in September they nearly tripled, jumping to 13,205, before returning in October back down to 3,840. This was not a one-time freak occurrence - similar jumps occurred at the end of FY 2014 and 2015.

And the sets of cases closed each September appear very different in composition from those typically processed during the rest of the year. During the first eleven months of FY 2016, for example, FOIA cases closed took on average 10-20 calendar days from receipt to closure. Then in September, the average closure time in that single month jumped to 313 calendar days!

The lack of attention given to ensuring a smooth flow of cases throughout the year is not only undesirable but counter-productive. Answers to some requests are needlessly delayed in violation of timeliness requirements in the law. The quality of some responses that requesters receive surely must also suffer in such an intense push to close cases. And the pressure on FOIA staff to cut corners to speed case closures can hardly make the office a desirable place to work.

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