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U.S. House of Representatives Passes Carter Legislation to Reduce FOIA Backlog at DHS

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Washington, June 25, 2015 | Mary Carpenter (202-834-0386) | comments

The United States House of Representatives today passed Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter’s (GA-01) DHS FOIA Efficiency Act of 2015.  The legislation unanimously passed the House and would require the Chief FOIA Officer at the Department of Homeland Security to improve and streamline the FOIA request process at the department to reduce their backlog and provide greater transparency in the FOIA process.

“In what is supposed to be the most transparent administration in history, DHS has an unacceptable record when it comes to FOIA requests,” said Carter. “It boasts the largest backlog of any federal agency, was given a D+ for its handling of them by an independent watchdog and last year the backlog more than doubled. An agency cannot and should not be allowed to operate like this. This important legislation provides the desperately needed reforms to improve the process, eliminate duplication and significantly reduce the backlog at DHS while increasing transparency and accountability.”

Carter recently discovered that President Obama’s executive actions on immigration could have created a surge in FOIA requests at DHS exacerbating the backlog. After inquiries from Carter, Karen Neuman, DHS Chief Privacy and FOIA Officer, admitted that “the FOIA backlog has more than doubled in part because we’ve received an enormous increase in the number of requests for Fiscal Year 2014.” Neuman additionally confirmed that a “significant number of requests are requested for immigration records.” It is likely that most of these requests seek immigration records to prepare for President Obama’s amnesty programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA).

“There has been a 182 percent increase in the number of FOIA requests at the Department of Homeland Security since the Obama Administration took over,” Carter said. “This outrageous increase is partly thanks to supporters of amnesty, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, publicly encouraging those who would like to take advantage of the President’s executive orders to request their immigration records through the FOIA process – whether they are here legally or not. FOIA requests from illegal immigrants taking advantage of unconstitutional programs should never stand in the way of transparency for the American people.”

H.R. 1615, the DHS FOIA Efficiency Act of 2015, was introduced as part of a greater legislative initiative from the House Committee on Homeland Security to curb waste, fraud, abuse and increase transparency at the DHS.

Bill Summary:

This bill will direct the Chief FOIA Officer of the Department of Homeland Security to make certain improvements in the implementation of section 552 of title 5, United States Code (commonly known as the Freedom of Information Act), to include:

  • Finalize, update, and issue FOIA regulations for the Department of Homeland Security;
  • Identify annual cost to the Department of implementing FOIA;
  • Identify and eliminate unnecessary duplication in the course of processing FOIA requests;
  • Develop a plan for electronic FOIA tracking; and
  • Minimize the FOIA backlog.

Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter represents the First District of Georgia. He serves as a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security as well as the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Education and the Workforce Committee.

To view Carter’s questioning of Karen Neuman, DHS Chief Privacy and FOIA Officer, please click here

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