THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) | FOIA Reading Room |
A GUIDE FOR MAKING A FOIA REQUEST TO THE UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY AND WATER COMMISSION (USIBWC)
The USIBWC hopes you will find this site informative and that it will give you a better understanding of USIBWC's public information programs. For directions on submitting a FOIA request, please click here. To download a FOIA Request form, click here.
Chief FOIA Officer, Susan Daniel: (915) 832-4109
FOIA Officer & Public Liaison, Eric Meza: (915) 832-4704
The FOIA, Title 5, United States Code, Section 552, was signed into law on July 4, 1966, by
President Lyndon Johnson. Since then, the FOIA has been amended in 1974, 1986, and most recently, with the enactment of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA). The USIBWC implements the FOIA pursuant to regulation in 22 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1102, (22 CFR, Part 1102). The FOIA established the premise that people should have access to government information, and it is the responsibility of the government to justify why records should not be disclosed. Judicial remedies are also provided.
The FOIA applies to records created and maintained by agencies in the executive branch of the federal government, such as the USIBWC. The FOIA does not apply to Congress, the judicial branch of the federal government, or to state or local governments. Many state governments have enacted open records laws. The attorney general of a state could provide information about that state's laws upon request.
The FOIA and E-FOIA require that certain agency records, such as descriptions of agency organization and office addresses, statements of agency operations, rules of procedures, general policy statements, final opinions made in the adjudication of cases, and administrative staff manuals that affect the public, be made available for inspection and copying regardless of the format.
All other agency records may be requested by submitting a FOIA request. Pursuant to the FOIA, agencies are generally required to search and provide already existing records when responding to FOIA requests. This means that agencies are not required to create a record or answer questions when responding to FOIA requests.
Even though the FOIA is primarily a disclosure law, not all records requested are automatically released. The FOIA has provided nine exemptions which allow certain information that may be contained in records or the entire record to be withheld from public disclosure. The exemptions apply to records that are:
1. National defense and foreign policy;
2. Internal personnel rules and practices;
3. Records exempted by other statutes;
4. Trade secrets and confidential commercial;
5. Internal memoranda;
6. Clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
7. Law enforcement;
8. Records on financial institutions; and
9. Geological information including records on wells.
Reasonably segrable nonexempt information will be released unless it is inextricably intertwined with exempt material. Agencies are encouraged to make discretionary releases of information in cases in which no foreseeable harm from the release of the information can be determined.
Generally, you have a right to a decision as to whether the requested records will be provided within 20 working days of receipt of your request. However, under certain circumstances, some requests may take longer to complete. If we determine we will need additional time to complete your request, we will advise you of the estimated date we anticipate providing the records to you.
If we initially deny your request in whole or in part or if we were unable to locate records, we will advise you of your right to appeal our determination as well as the judicial remedies available to you. Address your appeal to the Commissioner, United States Section, International Boundary and Water Commission, 4171 N. Mesa St., Suite C-310, El Paso, Texas 79902. The envelope and letter of appeal should be clearly identifiable by using the marking "Freedom of Information Appeal".
All requests made pursuant to the FOIA are a matter of public record with personal information about requesters deleted.
FOIA requests to the USIBWC may be submitted in writing, by fax, or e-mail. You may contact the USIBWC regarding the FOIA program at the following address:
Attn: FOIA - Legal Office
4171 N. Mesa, Suite C-100
El Paso, Texas 79902
To submit a request electronically via email, click here.
To submit a request by facsimile, send to (915) 832-4196.
To submit a request by mail carrier, please send to the mailing address listed above.
Please clearly mark the mailing envelope, fax, or e-mail "Freedom of Information Act Request."
Not only is the USIBWC responsible for processing FOIA requests for the USIBWC Headquarters but also has oversight responsibility for the processing of FOIA requests for records located at the following locations/field offices:
Field Office / Location
American Dam / El Paso, Texas
Amistad Dam / Del Rio, Texas
Anzalduas / Mercedes, Texas
Calexico / Calexico, California
Falcon Dam / Falcon Heights, Texas
Zac Dominguez / Ft. Hancock, Texas
Lardeo / Laredo, Texas
Las Cruces / Las Cruces, New Mexico
Mercedes / Mercedes, Texas
Nogales / Nogales, Arizona
Presidio / Presidio, Texas
San Diego / San Ysidro, California
Yuma / Yuma, Arizona
Washington, D.C. Liaison Office / Wash. D.C.
The five criteria listed below must be met before we can accept your request as an official FOIA request; therefore; when you decide to submit a FOIA request, we recommend you ensure the criteria is provided.
(a) your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address where you can be reached during the day in case additional information is needed;
(b) write the words "FOIA REQUEST" on the envelope;
(c) try to be as specific as possible in identifying the records you want to obtain; that is provide a time frame in which documents were created, project/program name, applicable numbers for reports and contracts, organization/department, name of individuals involved, etc.;
(d) specify the format you wish the records provided in; i.e., paper copy, floppy disk, etc.;
(e) state you willingness to pay reasonable fees incurred during the processing of your request (as explained below).
In accordance with provisions of the FOIA, requesters are categorized into four categories for the purpose of assessing fees for specific services provided in responding to your request. Your request must state the category of the requester for fee purposes (i.e. commercial, media, educational, all other). If responding to a request results in fees of less than $5, there will be no fees assessed.In some instances, fees may be reduced or waived in cases where furnishing the information primarily benefits the general public understanding of the USIBWC. For a full description of requester categories and qualifications for a fee waiver, please review the USIBWC's implementing regulations (22 CFR, Part 1102.5). Address a request for waiver or reduction of fees at the time you submit your initial request for records pursuant to the FOIA. The requester should state a limitation of the fees they are willing to pay. Please include in any waiver request relevant facts or arguments that might support the request for the fee waiver.
A requester may not file multiple requests at the same time, each seeking portions of records, solely in order to avoid payment of fees.