University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Nightingale v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services IM-CA-0150
Docket / Court 3:19-cv-03512 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Attorney Organization American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)
Case Summary
On June 16, 2019, plaintiffs--three immigration attorneys and two noncitizens who filed FOIA (FOIA) requests for individual immigration case files (known as A-Files)--filed this class-action suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs sued U.S ... read more >
On June 16, 2019, plaintiffs--three immigration attorneys and two noncitizens who filed FOIA (FOIA) requests for individual immigration case files (known as A-Files)--filed this class-action suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs sued U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), alleging that the defendants had a nationwide pattern or practice of failing to make determinations regarding A-File requests within the time period of 30 days as mandated by 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(b), the FOIA statute. Plaintiffs, represented by the American Immigration Council and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, sought declaratory relief that defendants’ failure to make timely determinations on plaintiffs’ and proposed classes’ A-File FOIA requests violates FOIA, and a nationwide injunction requiring defendants to make timely determinations. The case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler.

The plaintiffs argued that A-Files are crucial to determining a noncitizen's eligibility to apply for an immigration benefit and to change their existing immigration status. The only way that a noncitizen or her attorney can obtain an A-File is to submit an FOIA request. UCIS' FOIA backlog--which more than doubled between 2015 and 2017, despite no increase in requests--had resulted in average processing time for FOIA requests of 55-90 days, exceeding the 30-day deadline. The plaintiffs also asserted that UCIS exacerbated these delays by referring portions of requests to ICE, which also has a considerable backlog, resulting in further delay and incomplete record retrieval. The plaintiffs alleged that these backlogs and delays demonstrate a pattern or practice of unreasonable delay in responding to FOIA requests and that these delays caused "emotional and financial hardship for individuals left in legal limbo" while waiting to obtain these records.

On July 2, 2019, the case was reassigned to Judge William H. Orrick because the parties did not consent to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge.

On August 8, 2019, the plaintiffs filed a Motion for Class Certification, seeking certification for two proposed classes. The first proposed class ("UCIS Class") consisted of "all individuals who filed, or will file, A-File FOIA requests with USCIS which have been pending, or will be pending, with USCIS for more than 30 business days without a determination." The second proposed class ("ICE Referral Class") consisted of "All individuals who filed, or will file, A-File FOIA requests with USCIS that USCIS has referred, or will refer, to ICE and which have been pending, or will be pending, for more than 30 business days from the date of the initial filing with USCIS without a determination."

On October 15, 2019, Judge Orrick granted the Motion for Class Certification, concluding that the plaintiffs met their burden for certification of both the "USCIS Class" and the "ICE Referral Class." 2019 WL 5191066.

On January 14, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a case management statement that set out the proposed schedule for the remainder of the case. Discovery is set to be completed by July 1, 2020. The plaintiffs anticipate filing a motion for summary judgment in mid-September, to which the defendants will file a cross-motion for summary judgment. The parties do not anticipate that this case will go to trial.

The case is ongoing.

Aaron Gurley - 01/27/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Pattern or Practice
Records Disclosure
Immigration/Border
Admission - procedure
Immigration lawyers
Status/Classification
Visas - procedures
Work authorization - procedures
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552
Defendant(s) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description UCIS Class: "all individuals who filed, or will file, A-File FOIA requests with USCIS which have been pending, or will be pending, with USCIS for more than 30 business days without a determination." ICE Referral Class: "All individuals who filed, or will file, A-File FOIA requests with USCIS that USCIS has referred, or will refer, to ICE and which have been pending, or will be pending, for more than 30 business days from the date of the initial filing with USCIS without a determination."
Indexed Lawyer Organizations American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
3:19-cv-3512 (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0150-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/21/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-CA-0150-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/19/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Class Certification [ECF# 47] (2019 WL 5191066) (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0150-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/15/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Orrick, William Horsley III (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0150-0002 | IM-CA-0150-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Adams, Matthew (Washington) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0150-0001 | IM-CA-0150-9000
Creighton, Emily J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0150-0001 | IM-CA-0150-9000
Kang, Leila (Washington) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0150-9000
Kenney, Mary (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0150-0001 | IM-CA-0150-9000
Realmuto, Trina (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0150-0001 | IM-CA-0150-9000
Tolchin, Stacy Eva (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0150-0001 | IM-CA-0150-9000
Valenzuela, Cynthia A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0150-0001 | IM-CA-0150-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Edney, Marsha S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0150-9000
Handley, Cristen Cori (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0150-9000

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