The DHS says it received a record 291,242 FOIA requests in fiscal year 2014, spending about $51.5 million to process and fill them. It fully granted only 16,651 of these requests, or about 5.7 percent, partially granted another 128,603, and denied 6,212 requests, the report stated.
According to DHS, the vast majority of requests were directed to three agencies: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – 143,794 requests; Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – 47,261 requests; and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – 85,081 requests.
The increase in FOIA requests has put a strain on the department’s ability to process them, DHS said in the report, adding that the department had 120,393 FOIA requests pending at the end of FY 2014. This reflects an 83 percent increase in the number of pending requests from FY 2013.
The department also said it has an ever-growing backlog of FOIA requests. Under federal law they are meant to be processed within 20 business days unless there are “unusual circumstances,” such as requiring extensive research or involving collection of a large number of records.
“The increased volume and complexity of requests for immigration records has directly affected the Department’s backlog,” the report stated. According to DHS, there were 103,480 backlogged FOIA requests at the end of FY 2014, compared to 51,575 in FY 2013.
“Components that process requests seeking immigration-related records have the largest backlogs in the Department, comprising more than 90 percent of the total DHS backlog,” the report stated.
According to the report, DHS receives about 30 percent of all FOIA requests submitted to the federal government each year.