FOIA Requests & Resources

Open The Government believes in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as an antidote to the deeply entrenched secrecy surrounding an immigration enforcement system that has allowed for the proliferation of unaccountable and abusive government policies and practices. Government records are generally available to the public through FOIA requests if the requested records relate to the administration of the public’s business. The key is to determine the type of existing data or records that would be most useful to your request, and then file an information request(s) seeking the information. Records could mean emails, forms, memos, expense reports, videos, photos, or spreadsheets. The process can be long and complicated, and we are here to help along the way.

The following are information requests submitted as part of OTG’s FOIA trainings to give you an idea of the kind of information others have requested. Our team created this FOIA guide to help you navigate the records request process, and can also help you submit and track FOIA requests. We can also assist with relevant appeals, and analyze responses if needed. Contact us if you have any questions at info@openthegovernment.org.

FOIA Requests & Status


Issue: Immigration, Child Detention and COVID-19 protocols

Issue: Immigration, Child Detention and COVID-19 protocols

Open The Government and Texas Impact are investigating the effect of the Coronavirus on medical protocol changes at child detention centers in Texas.

Documents: Completed/Uploaded

What we learned: OTG and Texas Impact are investigating medical conditions at child detention centers in Texas following outbreaks of COVID-19 in detention centers across the country. Specifically, Texas can issue “waivers” that allow detention centers to loosen its standards for medical care and other federally mandated services. OTG and Texas Impact obtained the number of medical waivers sought by numerous child detention centers and Texas Impact is currently analyzing the records.

Request sent to: Texas Health and Human Services

Status: In Progress


Issue: Immigration, Local Assistance to ICE

Issue: Immigration, Local Assistance to ICE

During Migrahack, a data-driven and multimedia conference held in Colorado, OTG worked with local reporters to send FOIA requests related to local sheriffs’ agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Detention centers use the so-called 287(g) agreements with ICE to extend the time they hold detainees, giving ICE agents time to place them in deportation

Documents: Completed/Uploaded

What we learned: The Sheriff of Teller County, Colorado entered a 287(g) agreement with ICE and quietly renewed the controversial agreement for an additional two years. The agreement allowed the jail to identify and process migrants “amenable for removal” within the Teller County Jail on behalf of ICE.

Request sent to: Teller County Denver

Status: Complete


Issue: Immigration, Child Detention

Issue: Immigration, Child Detention

The Department of Health and Human Services proposed a detention center for immigrant children in Northern Virginia but ultimately canceled the contract after public pressure.

Faith in Action, a local faith-based group that had worked to put a stop to the detention facility contract, partnered with OTG to send FOIA requests to several federal agencies to learn more about local and federal officials’ plans for the detention center. We requested records from offices such as the General Services Administration, which is tasked with executing contacts for the federal government.

Documents: Sent FOIA requests

What we learned: TBD

Request sent to: GSA, Department of Homeland Security, ICE

Status: In Progress/Awaiting Records


Issue: Immigration, Environmental Destruction

Issue: Immigration, Environmental Destruction

Following viral media posts about the destruction of historic cultural sites to build a border wall, OTG worked with Texas Impact, a Texas-based religious organization, to send FOIA requests to Customs and Border Patrol.

We requested the environmental and cultural impact assessments the government claimed to have completed before construction in order to better understand the broader implications of building the wall on indigenous lands.

Documents: Sent records requests.

What we learned: TBD

Request sent to: Center for Border Protection, ICE, Border Patrol, DHS

Status: In Progress/Awaiting Records


Issue: Immigration, Sanctuary Cities

Issue: Immigration, Sanctuary Cities

A New York Times investigation found that DHS and ICE planned to “flood the streets” with immigration agents in an unprecedented operation.

OTG worked with a Texas-based religious group, Texas Impact, to send FOIA requests to the agencies to understand operational plans and arrest quotas. The deployment includes SWAT-style teams comprised of DHS and ICE agents sent to sanctuary cities as part of an immigration enforcement crack down.

Documents: Sent records requests

What we learned: TBD

Request sent to: ICE, DHS, CBP

Status: In Progress/Awaiting Records