Judicial Watch Sues Homeland Security for Documents Detailing Distribution of S Visas
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to obtain information regarding the Obama administration’s distribution of S Visas. S Visas are granted to alien informants who help U.S. law enforcement officers to investigate and prosecute criminal and terrorist activities.
Judicial Watch’s original FOIA request, filed on January 8, 2010, seeks the following information:
A. All CIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) records concerning the distribution or allocation of S Visas.
B. All records establishing the legal and/or policy basis of eligibility for S Visas.
C. All statistical records concerning the issuance of S Visas.
The time frame for the request is from January 2008 to the present.
DHS acknowledged receiving Judicial Watch’s request on January 11, 2010, but has failed entirely to respond to the request within the statutory allotted 20 business days.
The S Visa provision was added to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994 in response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and allows aliens who possess “critical information on criminal or terrorist organizations to come into the United States in order to provide information to law enforcement officials.” Since 1995, the government has issued 900 S Visas.
According to the law, 200 S Visas can be distributed annually for information related to criminal activity (known as S-5 status), while 50 S Visas can be distributed annually for information related to terrorist activity (known as S-6 status). However, there is no cap on the number of family members of informants eligible for S Visa status. S Visas are intended to be temporary with a maximum stay of three years. However, S Visa holders can achieve permanent visa status at the discretion of the Attorney General.
“There seems to be very little oversight of this program and even less information available to the public regarding the criteria used to determine who receives an S Visa and under what circumstances. I don’t think it is a stretch to suggest that alien informants with inside information on criminal or terrorist activity might themselves be dangerous individuals. We’re hoping our FOIA request and lawsuit will shed some light on this little understood program,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.