Lawyer Applauds Ninth Circuit Decision to Allow Immigrants Access to Files
Jan 19, 2011
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) January 19, 2011 – In a landmark court case for immigrants, the Ninth Circuit recently found that an alien in removal proceedings has the right to review a copy of his A-file from the government as part of preparing for an immigration hearing.
“Finally, as a result of this Ninth Circuit’s holding, aliens in removal proceedings in the Ninth Circuit will be able to see a copy of their A-file in advance of a hearing,” said Dallas immigration attorney Stewart Rabinowitz of the firm Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz.
In Dent v. Holder, Sazar Dent, a Honduran who moved to the United States as a child, was placed in removal proceedings as a result of a felony conviction. Dent had lived in the U.S. since 1981 and claimed to have been adopted by a U.S. woman, but could not produce any evidence on his behalf. Proof of the adoption could have offered him relief from removal. Additionally, the government contested that Dent’s adoptive mother was even a citizen herself.
Throughout the process, the government refused to provide Dent with his complete A-file, a government file which contains immigration documents about foreign nationals who are or have been in the United States. When Dent appealed the case after the judge found that he was removable, the government located additional documents about Dent’s immigration status – naturalization applications for both him and his mother dating back to the 1980s. The government had never officially acted upon the applications.
Upon this realization, the court found that all immigrants in the Ninth Circuit have the right to view their A-file. The Court found a violation of due process to withhold access to a foreign national’s A-file in advance of a hearing, while the government can use that same file against a foreign national. The Court held that an alien involved in removal proceedings should have access to any document not considered to be confidential by the attorney general that pertains to the alien’s admission or presence in the U.S.
“This is fundamental,” Rabinowitz said. “We now look to other circuit’s courts of appeal to take a similar due process approach. Best would be a revised DHS policy that uniformly makes an A-file available to a respondent as a basic right, but that may be some time in coming.”
Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C.
14901 Quorum Drive, Suite 580
Dallas, Texas 75254