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Bayala v. DHS, No. 14-0007, 2017 WL 3841828 (D.D.C. Sept. 1, 2017) (Contreras, J.)


Bayala v. DHS, No. 14-0007, 2017 WL 3841828 (D.D.C. Sept. 1, 2017) (Contreras, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff's asylum application

Disposition:  Granting in part and denying in part defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment; sua sponte granting plaintiff partial summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  "The Court . . . will grant DHS summary judgment as to the adequacy of its search."  The court rejects "[plaintiff's] argu[ment] that DHS's search was inadequate because [certain] records exist but DHS failed to locate them" because "[plaintiff] has offered no evidence showing that [these] records exist[.]"  "[Plaintiff's] claims thus lack sufficient foundation to rebut DHS's affidavit, which explains that it has searched all of the locations where such records would reasonably be expected to be found."
  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege & Procedural Requirements, "Reasonably Segregable" Obligation:  "The Court finds that the Assessment to Refer is, at least in part, exempt under the deliberative process privilege contained in Exemption 5."  "As DHS argues, the Assessment to Refer is predecisional because it was written before a final determination was made on [plaintiff's] application for asylum, and is deliberative because it provided the opinions of the asylum officer to his supervisor."  However, the court also finds that "the first eight paragraphs of the Assessment to Refer are a dispassionate narration of facts[.]"  The court finds that "[t]hese paragraphs in no way 'intermingle [ ]' 'facts gleaned from the interview' with 'the asylum officer's impression of those facts.'"  "Because the Court has concluded that the first eight paragraphs of the Assessment to Refer are reasonably segregable, the Court will accordingly enter summary judgment sua sponte on that point in favor of [plaintiff]."
  • Exemption 6:  "The Court . . . finds that summary judgment is appropriate in favor of DHS as to its use of Exemption 6."  The court relates that "DHS relied on FOIA Exemption 6 to withhold the 'home address of an interpreter,' . . . a 'copy of an interpreter's driver's license,' . . . and portions of a 'TECS II I–94 Arrival Departure Display' that 'identif[ied] the individual that prepared the document[.]'"  The court finds that "the individuals clearly have a privacy interest in avoiding the disclosure of their home addresses or other personal information."  "Furthermore, [plaintiff] identifies no public interest in disclosure, nor is such an interest apparent to the Court, and thus the balancing is straightforward."
  • Exemption 7(E):  "The Court . . . grants DHS summary judgment as to its withholdings under Exemption 7(E)."  The court relates that "DHS relied on Exemption 7(E) to withhold information about 'electronic database systems, communications and instructions for Agency personnel related to possible interactions with applicants, and information gathering techniques,' from an 'Asylum and NACARA § 2032 Background Identity and Security Checklist,' an 'IBIS Inquiry,' and an 'Immigration and Naturalization Service FD28 Tracking System.'"  The court finds that "the information withheld here was compiled for law enforcement purposes" and it "'has been created in furtherance of USCIS's duty to prevent fraud, and to further the Agency's investigative functions.'"  Additionally, "[t]he Court finds that DHS has sufficiently shown a reasonably expected risk that releasing the withheld records would lead to circumvention of the law."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 5
Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(E)
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Procedural Requirements, “Reasonably Segregable” Obligation
Updated December 14, 2021