FOIA Advisor

Q&A: Syrian refugees

Q&A (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q.  I want to submit one or more FOIA requests to state (Virginia) and federal agencies to determine how many Syrian refugees have been relocated to my state, where they are located, what security vetting has been done, and how the relocation process works.  What agencies in Virginia and at the federal level should I submit such a request to and would this information be obtainable under FOIA?

A.  The federal agencies that are most involved in the refugee resettlement process are the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Administration for Children and Families.  FOIA contact information for each of these agencies is available here. Before filing requests, you might wish to peruse those agencies' websites (hyperlinked above) to see what information is already publicly available.  For example, HHS publishes the number of refugees resettled annually in each state by country of origin.  Several U.S. intelligence agencies are involved in security vetting, but you are not likely to gain access to security files via FOIA.  Nor in my opinion are you likely to obtain the home addresses of any refugee from any agency (federal or state).  

With respect to Virginia, you might consider directing requests to the Governor's Office and/or to the Secretariat of Public Safety and Homeland Security.