Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Emilio Reyes, Native American Activist Discusses His FRUSTRATION with BIA FAILURES on Freedom of Information Act Requests

We wrote about this issue before in Bureau of Indian Affairs Pulling Okey Doke which garnered a lot of views from the BIA (ruh-Roh).  I've asked my friend Emilio Reyes, who has been working tirelessly for the benefit of many Native Americas researching their history, his own, and JUSTICE against a corrupt government entitity charge with looking out for all NATIVE AMERICANS, not just chiefs and chairmen, to share what he's been experiencing.

Emilio Reyes on the Path
Just recently I did a FOIA request to know how the Bureau of Indian Affairs has handled some of my recent requests. This is what I found out:

For those who don't know what I do, I been conducing a lot a of research on the records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Some repositories include the National Archives, public libraries, online collections and Freedom of Information Act Requests.

> I started doing research five years ago when I found out my genealogy didn't match the Bureau of Indian Affairs records. There will a story to that soon.

 Turns out on this particular request where I am requesting the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide their internal emails, I honestly found some of the most disturbing comments.

While I found very few emails of the Regional Director Amy Dutshke, the one particular email that caught my attention was when Amy was requesting Harley Long and the Regional FOIA Coordinator Douglas Garcia, who works at the same agency the status on my FOIA requests. According to Mr. Long, this particular FOIA was completed but remained in their logs. Amy sounded pissed. I can only imagine Amy on her desk drinking her coffee and doing nothing about it. GREAT!

> In past correspondence that I've sent to the BIA complaining on their process with FOIA requests, it seems honestly that they don't care, and they don't! I literally had to get involved the DOI chief of Staff to resolve some of the issues. The agency has been redacting hundreds of records and in some cases, withholding in full.

> So to understand more of the violations the agency is conducting to my FOIA requests here is a little bit more to the story. A particular request was submitted to the BIA on September 2016, the request was never responded. Subsequently, the same request was then resubmitted on September 2016. Again, the request was ignored. A final request was resubmitted for the third time on December 2016.

 Since the agency failed to respond or provide any responsive documents pertaining to this request, the agency cannot asses any fees. Well, it happens that the Bureau sent me a bill of collection for the 2016 request. So I'm here thinking, wait, the agency needs to provide these documents but instead sends me a bill to pay for search fees? I informed the BIA that they couldn't do that. I specifically noted to look at 43 CFR 2.37 (f). Doug's response to other BIA employees was that I was requesting a "waiver." Tomayto, Tomahto, in his little world, it all means the same. I guess!

I do have to say that most ignorant and arrogant comments came from the Secretary of the Southern California Agency. I mean, her title as "Secretary," why is she even involved in my FOIA requests?

Not to mention, these last couple months they been providing redacted information or withholding some of the records.

So in this FOIA where I am reading their internal emails which is 590 pages, no where do I see the approval of the Regional Solicitor or emails asking the Regional Solicitor if the agency can redact or withhold some of these records. So if the Solicitor is not being consulted, then who is making these decisions? Douglas? Amy? Sandra? So let's get this straight, Douglas is the Regional FOIA coordinator, and Amy is the Regional Director, 20 FOIA's are currently being appealed. Read between the lines. What a way to have a "transparent government" right?

Currently, I have about 20 FOIA's that are sitting in the Office of the Solicitor. The time limit to appeal a FOIA is 90 working days. In accordance to 43 CFR 2.62 the basic time limit for responding to an appeal is TWENTY (20) business days after receipt of an appeal. But the actual time limit  for the Office of the Solicitor to respond is actually forever and ever and eternity. So what do you do when you're still filing an appeal and multiple agencies are involved in non-compliance? Oh and I'm not going to mention that time when the BIA claimed to fulfill a particular request and "mailed" me the wrong acknowledgement letter that was actually supposed to be mailed to Kern Valley State Prison. YEAH! I know, a lot of mistakes the agency is making.

I do have to mention though, the funniest thing on these BIA internal emails was the part where I read their mission statement from one of their staff members. It said:
"The Bureau of Indian Affairs mission is to enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian Tribes, and Alaska Natives. We will accomplish this through the delivery of quality service, maintaining government-to government relationships within the spirit of Indian Self-determination."


I been dealing with a lot of errors with BIA and have a problem with them not being compliant. I came to the conclusion, the BIA staff needs to be replaced. And when I say replaced I mean ASAP! Starting with the Regional Director, then Douglas Garcia and that Sandra too! The others I haven't head a real problem yet.

As far as my pending FOIA requests, legal action will be taken, and when I say that, I mean it. So BIA be prepared for it, not only have you fucked up my tribal affiliation which will be addressed very shortly but your agency is not really following compliance and are lazy, my case is building up.



H Caulfield said...

Trump needs to eliminate the B.I.A. It is a self serving bureaucracy and has become obsolete.

Reinstatement_Restitution said...

Threats and warnings only help the BIA prepare for lawsuits. I suggest you try to catch them by surprise instead.

The BIA appears to have an unlimited budget for litigation. The agency literally prefers court orders over making decisions. It is institutionalized laziness. Decisions are delayed, deferred, denied, until petitioners are forced to file suit. Then it is up to the solicitors so the agency effectively sloughs the work off to another department.

If you decide to sue find an attorney who understands administrative law. Just the simple act of preparing and validating an administrative record can take an interminable length of time. Especially in the situation you describe where the FOIA response is hundreds of pages. If you try to sue for violation of the FOIA the penalties are not very stiff. You might be able to get the court to order proper action on a FOIA, but then you are back at square one still waiting for a response to your request.

Of course the BIA know this. They also know that courts will defer to their reasonable decisions no matter how unreasonable they seem. The court is also loathe to find the agency in contempt, and the court also prefers to dismiss cases rather than to reveal the incompetence of a federal agency.

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

What you have been doing Emilio is sticking your damn nose where it does not belong! First JUanenos, they didnt want you because you do not nor will you ever belong; 2nd the San Pasqual Indians...we do not want you nor would we ever! You are not an INDIAN FROM ANYWHERE! Be proud of what you are MEXICAN! Quit trying to jump on the CASINO Bandwagon! 3rd you are trying to claim you are Gabrieleno? STOP NOW EMILIO! JUST STOP! You are a damn pesetring leach who manipulates people into beleiving your story just enough to make them fell sorry for you until they do the research on you and find out what you are about and who you really are; then they boot your sorry ass out and then your on to the next one! you are pathetic Emilio! BE mexican/gay proud and leave my indian people alone!