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Alabama Sample Request


Brief Description of this Request

Adelante, a partner organization of the Center for Constitutional Rights, made this request to get information about how ICE officers were colluding with local law enforcement and the courthouse staff in racially profiling and abusing Latinx residents.

September 15, 2017


Delivered via U.S. mail and hand delivery[JMV1] 


Sherry Baggett, Magistrate[JMV2] 
Gardendale Municipal Court
1309 Decatur Highway
Gardendale, AL 35071

Re: Open Records Request

Dear Ms. Baggett:


On behalf of Adelante Alabama Worker Center (“Adelante”) and the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (“ACIJ”) (“Requesters”),[JMV3] we seek records related to the policies and practices of the City of Gardendale (“the City”) pertaining to the City’s relationship with federal immigration authorities and the treatment of Latino and immigrant individuals by the City’s law enforcement officers and within the City’s court system. Please consider this letter as a request of the City pursuant to Alabama’s open records law, Ala. Code § 36-12-40.[JMV4] 

On Friday, June 2, 2017, several Latino individuals who had come to the Gardendale Municipal Court to pay traffic tickets were approached by individuals in plainclothes who were later identified as agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). The ICE agents subjected these individuals to interrogation and fingerprinting inside of the courthouse. They arrested one gentleman in front of court personnel and members of the public, and ICE placed a detainer request on another woman who had been sentenced to 24 hours in the city jail for driving without a license. A young Latino man who is a U.S. citizen was subject to interrogation by ICE agents within the courthouse. As community organizations representing residents of Gardendale and surrounding cities, we demand more information about the nature of Gardendale’s collusion with ICE.[JMV5] 

Requesters seek the following records from the City. This request covers the time period of January 1, 2017 to present; [JMV6]  if any of the records requested were changed in any way during that period, we request both the original and amended versions of the records. Please produce these records or contact us with any questions regarding this request no later than October 6, 2017:[JMV7] 

  1. The complete court records for every individual charged and/or convicted by the City of violating Ala. Code § 32-6-1 (driving without a license).[JMV8] 
  2. Any and all records regarding individuals held in City custody solely on the basis of suspected violations of federal immigration law. This includes but not is limited to individuals held on the basis of an ICE detainer, notification, or transfer request (Forms I-247A, I-247D, I-247N, I-247X, or I-247) or ICE administrative warrant (I-201), including an administrative warrant reported in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, as well as individuals held in City custody after posting bond, dismissal of charges, or resolution of the criminal case because s/he is suspected of violating federal immigration law, regardless of whether or not ICE issued a detainer, transfer, or notification request or administrative warrant for the individual. For each individual held on the basis of a suspected immigration violation, please provide: (1) a copy of the ICE detainer, notification, or transfer request (where applicable), and (2) the full case file; or in the alternative, please provide the following information for each individual:

    1. Full name;
    2. Date of birth;
    3. Race/Ethnicity;
    4. Gender;
    5. Date of arrest;
    6. Criminal charge(s);
    7. Date and time bond was posted (where applicable);
    8. Whether an ICE detainer, notification, or transfer request or administrative warrant (Forms I-247A, I-247, I-247D, 247N, I-247X, or I-200), and if so, what type of form;
    9. Date of final disposition of criminal case;
    10. Disposition of criminal case (e.g., charges dismissed, conditional discharge, guilty plea, acquitted, convicted at trial); and
    11. Date and time of release from City custody or transfer to ICE.
  3. Any and all records related to any City policies, procedures, or practices regarding the investigation, arrest, detention, and release of individuals by the City on the basis of suspected violations of federal immigration law.
  4. Any and all memoranda, contracts, or agreements between the City or any of its agencies or departments and federal immigration authorities.
  5. Any and all communications [JMV9] between City employees, officers, or agents and federal immigration authorities regarding the enforcement of the federal immigration laws and the detection, investigation, apprehension or detention of individuals suspected of violating the federal immigration laws.

If you deny all or part of this request, please state the legal basis for exempting those records from disclosure.[JMV10]  If you are not the proper custodian of the requested records but know who the proper custodian is, please identify that individual or agency. We reserve the right to appeal a decision to withhold any requested information, including, if necessary, through litigation. [JMV11] If we are required to litigate this matter in order to obtain the public records, we will seek an award of attorney’s fees incurred in the process.

We request a waiver of fees. Adelante is a federal tax-exempt non-profit organization. Adelante is dedicated to defending the rights and promoting the dignity of low-wage and immigrant workers and their families in the Birmingham area. ACIJ is a federal tax-exempt non-profit organization that convenes a grassroots, statewide network of individuals and organizations that works to advance and defend the rights of immigrants in Alabama. Information gathered through this request will contribute to the public’s understanding of law enforcement operations and shed light on municipal policies and practices that affect Latino and immigrant families in Alabama.[JMV12]  If you decline to grant a waiver, and if the cost will exceed $25.00, please contact me before incurring the expense.

Please send me responsive records by email or to the address listed below. Any records maintained electronically may provided in electronic format (e.g., .pdf, .doc, .xls) via email, compact disc, or USB. [JMV13] Alternatively, we are willing to arrange a mutually agreeable time to view and make copies of the records we request.[JMV14] 

If you have any questions regarding the nature or scope of this request, please contact me via the phone number or email address listed below. We would be glad to have a conversation with you regarding this request and the records we are seeking.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.



[requester point of contact]
Director, Adelante Alabama Worker Center

[phone number]
[email address]
[office mailing address][IH15] 


 [JMV1]Some agencies may have a specific records request form that you are required to fill out, or may accept requests via on online portal. We recommend contacting the agency before submitting the request to confirm their preferred method of submission. See Alabama Explainer Part 8.

You should also plan to follow up with the agency if you submit a request and don’t receive a confirmation of receipt within a week or two.

Sometimes the method of delivery you choose can depend on broader organizing strategies—this request was delivered in person as part of a public action outside the courthouse, followed by a press conference.

 [JMV2]Whenever possible, direct your request to the specific person who is responsible for handling open records request for the agency from which you are requesting records. If you are not able to identify this person, you can address your request to the agency/“Public Information Officer”/“To Whom it May Concern.” See Alabama Explainer Part 4.

 [JMV3]We recommend having an Alabama resident or an Alabama-based organization submit the request. But the requester does not need to be a U.S. citizen. See Alabama Explainer Part 2.

 [JMV4]Include a reference to the ORA in subject line and/or the first paragraph of your request so the agency knows that it is an open records request. See Alabama Explainer Part 1.

 [JMV5]You may decide to provide additional background and context for your request. This can help the recipient understand the nature of the records you are seeking and why they are of interest to the public. If you plan to share your request with the public or the news media, providing context can also help shape the narrative around a broader organizing campaign.

Providing details on the context and purpose of your request is optional—it is not required by the ORA. See Alabama Explainer Part 3.

 [JMV6]Providing a date range for your request (or for specific items within your request) can help the recipient identify responsive records and reduce record retrieval/search fees. See Alabama Explainer Part 7.

It can also make it less likely that the agency will reject your request as overly broad, vague, or burdensome.

 [JMV7]Because Alabama’s ORA does not set any deadlines for agencies to respond to records requests, you should set your own deadline in the request. See Alabama Explainer Part 9.

But keep in mind that the agency is not require by law to comply with that deadline—be prepared to follow up with a phone call, letter, or other tactics to push the agency to respond to your request if they don’t respond by your proposed deadline.

 [JMV8]Include a detailed description of each specific record or category of records that you are requesting. See Alabama Explainer Part 5.

If the records you are seeking were mentioned in a news article, a government meeting or hearing, or some other source, consider including a footnote with a reference to that source in order to show that the record exists and help the agency identify the record.

 [JMV9]Some requests include a “definitions” section to clarify the types of records being sought. “Communications,” for example, could include “the transmittal of information (in the forms of facts, ideas, inquiries or otherwise).”

 [JMV10]Asking the agency to specify the basis for denial or redaction can help you contest their claims of exemption in communications with the agency and in court, if you end up in litigation. See Alabama Explainer Part 6.

 [JMV11]There is no administrative appeals process under the Alabama ORA—if you want to challenge an agency’s denial of a request (including, in some cases, excessive delays), you can file a lawsuit in state court. See Alabama Explainer Part 10.

 [JMV12]Under Alabama’s ORA, agencies are not required to grant a fee waiver. See Alabama Explainer Part 7.

But you can still request one, emphasizing the public interest and importance of the records you seek and the requester’s non-profit status, where applicable.

Agencies in Alabama can charge hefty fees for responding to records request, especially if the responsive records are voluminous (contain many pages) or require significant staff time to search for and retrieve records.

If you are not willing to pay these fees, you should include a line like this. If you are unwilling to pay the fees quoted by an agency, you can try to negotiate a reduction in fees, or offer to narrow your request.

 [JMV13]Agencies are not required to produce records in any specific format, but it doesn’t hurt to ask! See Alabama Explainer Part 10.

We recommend requesting records in digital format to avoid printing fees. You may also want to request that digitized records be produced in their original format, including metadata, and that emails include all attachments.

 [JMV14]Offering to inspect the records in person and make your own copies can help reduce fees. But only offer to do this if you ae able to travel to where the agency is located.

 [IH15]Make sure to include a specific address where the agency can send responses to you, whether email or regular mail or both.