United States Department of State v. Ray
Every year millions of young adults graduate from their respective high schools, pack up their belongings, leave their parental guided homes behind, and set off for college. The first thing that comes to mind when leaving the parents behind is their first true sense of freedom. The freedom to do what they please with no curfew, no guidelines, and no pre-disposed consequences for their actions is the freedom they’ve been working hard throughout the maturing years of their childhood. Upon arrival it seems as though this is the case, but as time passes one realizes that the so called freedom they attained comes with an inherited circumstance. The privacy that you once had in the safety of your home in your bedroom is violated by the inheritance of a roommate and the dorm lifestyle. Some may not have ever had this privacy due to their initial guardians, but the fact remains, that you have to share your space, time, and livelihood with the accompanied male or female assigned. The right to privacy is protected by many laws in our country’s government. Included in these laws is the Freedom of Information Act in which the case at hand regards. In the United States Department of State v. Ray (502 U.S. 164, 112 S.Ct. 541) a group of Haitians seeking political asylum from our government, using the FOIA as a precedent for their reasoning, sought to receive the names and information withheld from them of Haitian emigrants who were previously sent back to Haiti upon arrival to the United States. The State Department in this case was known as the petitioner (plaintiff) and the respondent (defendant) was the Florida lawyer Michael D. Ray representing the Haitian nationals and his clients. In a more detailed summary, it was stated that a group of Haitians depressed with their countries devastations, sought to illegally immigrate to the U.S. seeking asylum as political refugees. As our nation’s government caught attention of the immigrants, they imposed a plan to apprehend and reinsert the immigrants of who did not qualify for political asylum back into Haiti. Fearing the immigrants’ safety from persecution upon arrival, they comprised an agreement with the Haitian government to restrain from persecuting these individuals for their actions. Also, they set forth a series of interviews with the immigrants to follow up on the agreement’s standing. This is where our case’s foreground was cemented. The remaining Haitian nationals known to be the respondents, made a series of FOIA requests to government agencies for copies of the reports of the interviews the State Department held from the returning Haitians. They wanted to prove that there was indeed a fear of prosecution upon returning to Haiti that entitled the immigrants to asylum in the U.S. The problem at hand was that some of the information they received had been redacted or edited before the Haitian nationals received them. The State Department’s reasoning is that upon assigning the agreement with the Haitian government and the returning immigrants they interviewed, they vowed that they would not disclose any information of their names and whereabouts for their safety due to an invasion of privacy. The respondents argued that the right to privacy is outweighed by public interest and the Freedom of Information Act gives them the right. The following case was settled in the Supreme Court with Justice Stevens delivering the ruling however, let us start with the District Court’s ruling. The District Court sided with the respondents and held that the invasion of privacy in this situation, giving away the names and addresses of the individuals was of little significance and was dominantly outweighed by public interest in the “safe relocation of returned Haitians.” They ordered the State Department to surrender the redacted information. Upon reaching the Court of Appeals, they too sided with the respondents though they...
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