FLORIDA — The Immigration and Naturalization Service must give the names and addresses of some deported Haitians to Miami immigration attorney Michael Ray, a federal District Court in Miami has ruled.
Ray in 1991 lost a Freedom of Information Act suit at the U.S. Supreme Court after seeking the names and addresses of Haitians who were deported after losing their bids for political asylum. In U.S. Department of State v. Ray, the high court invoked the privacy exemption (Exemption 6) to the FOI Act, saying that nondisclosure would help protect the individuals from retaliatory action by the Haitian government.
However, in the later FOI requests, the district court noted that the U.S. government had actually given Haitian authorities the names and addresses of returned Haitians even though it redacted them from documents provided to Ray. Disclosure to the Haitian government “lessens the concern” that release would identify persons who left Haiti in violation of the law, the judge wrote.
The lower court also found differences in the public interest served in Ray’s cases before the higher and lower courts.
In the 1991 case the high court noted that even though the State Department withheld the names and addresses, it had made public synopses of its interviews it conducted in the presence of Haitian officials with a sampling of the deportees on their return. Release of the substance of these interviews, even without naming the returnees, would serve the public’s interest in assessing their treatment, the high court said.
But the district judge said that no such interviews were held for the deportees subject to Ray’s later requests. These government records provided little information about the conduct of INS, he said, noting that in the 11th Circuit the public’s interest can be served by release of identifying information that allows third persons “to investigate further our government’s conduct.”
He noted that despite the arguments of the government that “derivative” uses of information do not directly serve the public interest, the Supreme Court had specifically declined to adopt that rule in the Ray case then before it.
(Ray v. U.S. Department of Justice; Counsel: Michael Ray, Miami)
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