Judge gives US government one week to handle request for Prince Harry’s visa records

Hannah McKay/Reuters/File

Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.


A federal judge has given the Department of Homeland Security until next Tuesday to decide how it will handle a conservative think tank’s request for Prince Harry’s US immigration records.

The Heritage Foundation has asked the US government via the Freedom of Information Act to see his visa application, citing his admission of past recreational drug use in his memoir. The group is questioning whether immigration officials properly granted Prince Harry’s application, since admission of past drug use can be grounds to reject a visa application.

At a hearing Tuesday in Washington, DC, federal judge Carl Nichols gave DHS until June 13 to determine whether or not it will expedite or respond to a request for the records.

Several agencies within the department, including US Border Patrol, have denied the FOIA requests, but the agency’s headquarters has not yet made a determination.

In court filings, DHS has noted that the US Customs and Border Protection agency originally denied the requests from Heritage because the group did not have Prince Harry’s authorization or consent to release the information.

“A person’s visa … is confidential,” DHS attorney John Bardo said in court Tuesday.

DHS attorneys have also said that an injunction to expedite the FOIA requests is not appropriate in the case since Heritage has, among other things, not shown how they will suffer irreparable harm if the information is not quickly released.

Attorneys for the Heritage Foundation see the case as part of a larger effort to uncover non-compliance with the law by DHS in different areas – including accusations from Republican lawmakers that DHS is “deliberately refusing to enforce the Country’s immigration laws and is responsible for the current crisis at the border,” court filings read.

When asked about the privacy aspect of their records request, attorney Samuel Dewey, who represents Heritage, said Prince Harry’s privacy on the issue of past drug use has been “extraordinarily diminished” given his public remarks on the subject.

“We’re only focused on the specific issue that’s drawn all the press attention: the drug use,” Dewey said. “He’s talked about, he’s written about it extensively. He has waved any privacy interest he has in his drug use. He has bragged about it (in his memoir) and sold that.”

To CNN, Dewey added: “This is a case that concerns Prince Harry, but what it’s focused on is DHS’s conduct.”

Separately on Tuesday, Prince Harry testified in a case in London against the publisher of a UK tabloid, alleging the media organization used illegal methods in their reporting, namely by hacking his phone.

It was the first time in over a century that a member of the British royal family has testified in court.

This story and headline have been updated.

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