BIA rules immigrant has “absolute right” to contents of alien file when in removal proceedings

The Board of Immigration Appeals recently ruled that an immigrant had been denied his due process rights after the immigration judge refused to allow him access to the contents of his alien file.  The Board remanded the case back to the immigration judge with an order to allow the alien to review his file.

In this case, a Guatemalan man sought to apply for a U visa as the victim of physical or mental abuse.  To support his claim, he requested access to all of the documents in his alien file (i.e., the file that the government maintains on every alien in the U.S.).  But the government had failed to provide a copy and the judge never ordered them to do so.

On appeal, the man argued that his A-file (alien file) played a significant role in his ability to file for the U visa.  He also alleged that his due process rights were violated when the court denied him access to the file.  The government argued that the man could have gotten his file by filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The BIA ruled in favor of the immigrant.  The court made clear that an alien has an absolute right to view the contents of his A-file.  The BIA sent the case back to the immigration judge so as to allow the Deparment of Homeland Security to provide a copy of the file to the alien so that he could pursue his U visa claim.

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