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Case Name American Immigration Council v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement IM-DC-0049
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-01531 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection Trump Administration FOIA cases
Attorney Organization American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center
Case Summary
On June 27, 2018, the American Immigration Council filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiff sued the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), the U.S. Customs & Border Protection ("CBP"), and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") ... read more >
On June 27, 2018, the American Immigration Council filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiff sued the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), the U.S. Customs & Border Protection ("CBP"), and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") under 5 U.S.C. § 552, the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"). The plaintiff sought injunctive relief and attorneys' fees. The plaintiff sought to compel the disclosure of records regarding the separation of families who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. The statutory deadline for a response had expired, and the defendants had failed to make a determination on the requests as required by FOIA. This case was assigned to District Judge Royce C. Lamberth.

The plaintiff claimed there was an urgent need for information regarding the defendants' current policies and practices regarding the treatment of noncitizens (many of them seeking asylum) who arrive as family units at the U.S.-Mexico border and, in many cases, have been prosecuted and separated. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants had been the primary decisionmakers in the implementation of this policy and in the initial separation of families. As such, the plaintiff claimed that records explaining the defendants' policies and practices were of vital importance to the public's understanding of the implementation of family separation.

On August 29, 2018, Judge Lamberth ordered the defendants to produce a Vaughn Index with a supporting motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgement, as appropriate. A Vaughn Index is a document that agencies prepare in FOIA litigation to justify the withholding of information under a FOIA exemption.

On September 21, 2018, the defendants filed an unopposed motion to stay the proceedings. None of the defendants had completed processing the plaintiff's FOIA requests. The defendants forwarded to the plaintiff proposed search terms to be used in completing the FOIA searches. The plaintiff stated that it would respond to the defendants' proposals on or before September 28, 2018. Judge Lamberth granted the motion and stayed the proceedings until October 15, 2018. Judge Lamberth also ordered the parties to file a proposed schedule for further proceedings on or before October 15, 2018.

After this stay and another short stay due to a lapse in government appropriations in early 2019, the parties continued filing status reports. On August 30, 2019, the parties proposed a discovery schedule where DHS, ICE, and CBP would process 500 pages of material per month in response to the plaintiff's search requests. The parties promised to provide more status updates at the end of the year regarding the state of discovery on this schedule.

The parties released a joint status report on December 3, 2019; ICE and CBP met their processing goals, and DHS largely transferred the work to its component offices when it found relevant records. The plaintiffs contested part of ICE's disclosure, saying the agency unnecessarily delayed in telling them that it would be unable to process certain subparts of the FOIA request due to the volume of documents involved. Both parties filed proposed orders with the status report; the plaintiff's proposed order asked for ICE to continue with 500 pages a month of discovery, while the defendants only asked for further joint status reports in early 2020.

Questions over ICE's compliance with the discovery schedule continued into 2020; in a March 20, 2020 status report, the plaintiffs again questioned the delay in compliance and ICE reiterated that the volume of documents was greater than anticipated. The parties' proposed order from this status report reflects the positions from late 2019.

The court sided with the plaintiff's view on March 23, 2020, ordering ICE to provide updates on processing in line with the proposed schedule from 2019 every six weeks. The next status report is due June 22, 2020.

Victoria Fiengo - 09/30/2018
Ellen Aldin - 06/09/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
Discrimination-basis
Immigration status
General
Family reunification
Inadequate citizen complaint investigations and procedures
Juveniles
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Pattern or Practice
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Youth / Adult separation
Immigration/Border
Admission - criteria
Admission - procedure
Asylum - criteria
Asylum - procedure
Border police
Deportation - criteria
Deportation - procedure
Detention - criteria
Detention - procedures
Family
Status/Classification
National Origin/Ethnicity
Hispanic
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552
Defendant(s) U.S. Customs & Border Protection
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description The American Immigration Council seeking the court to compel disclosure under FOIA.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 06/27/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
1:18-cv-1531 (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0049-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/30/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-DC-0049-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/27/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 16] (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0049-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/29/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Unopposed Motion to Stayorder and Order [ECF# 17] (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0049-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/21/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 50] (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0049-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/23/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Lamberth, Royce C. (FISC, D.D.C.) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0049-0002 | IM-DC-0049-0005 | IM-DC-0049-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Asta, Christopher James (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0049-9000
Cedarbaum, Jonathan (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0049-9000
Cohen, Rachel Weiner (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0049-0001
Creighton, Emily J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0049-0001 | IM-DC-0049-9000
Qian, Ni (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0049-0001 | IM-DC-0049-9000
Walsh, John F. (Colorado) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0049-0001 | IM-DC-0049-9000
Yin, David Pu (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0049-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Braswell, Marina Utgoff (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0049-0003 | IM-DC-0049-9000
Gonzalez, Brenda (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0049-9000

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