Rojas-Vega v. ICE, No. 16-2291, 2018 WL 1472494 (D.D.C. Mar. 26, 2018) (Jackson, J.)

Date: 
Monday, March 26, 2018

Rojas-Vega v. ICE, No. 16-2291, 2018 WL 1472494 (D.D.C. Mar. 26, 2018) (Jackson, J.)

Re: Request for specific records concerning state hearing

Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  "The Court concludes that ICE’s search for responsive records was reasonable under the circumstances."  The court finds that "ICE's supporting declaration shows that, based on information plaintiff provided in his FOIA request and supporting documents, . . . it was reasonable that ICE FOIA staff referred plaintiff's request to [the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations ("ERO")], the program office responsible for removing individuals from the United States who have been ordered deported, and that ERO IDU staff searched [the ENFORCE Alien Removal Module], where records regarding the processing and removal of aliens from the United States are maintained, and that staff conducted a search using plaintiffs personal identifying information as search terms."  Responding to plaintiff's argument, the court finds that "the adequacy of ICE's search for responsive records depends on the methods, not the results, of the search."
     
  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  The court holds that "ICE meets its threshold requirement by demonstrating that the responsive records were compiled for law enforcement purposes."  The court notes that "ICE 'is the largest investigative arm of DHS . . . tasked with preventing . . . activities . . . threaten[ing] national security and public safety by investigating the people, money, and materials . . . support[ing] illegal enterprises.'"  "The EARM case summaries 'pertain to ICE's immigration enforcement actions' taken under DHS's authority to administer and enforce laws regarding the immigration and naturalization of aliens."
     
  • Exemptions 6 & 7(C):  "The Court concludes that ICE properly withholds the names of and identifying information about third parties appearing in the responsive EARM case summaries."  The court notes that these individuals have a privacy interest and that disclosure "'could lead to the identification of the ICE employees and subject [them] to harassing telephone calls and unwarranted hostility, which could disrupt and impede official law enforcement activity.'"  The court then finds that "[p]laintiff fails to articulate and ICE does not identify a public interest or benefit in disclosure of this login information, as it 'would not assist the public in understanding how ICE is carrying out its statutory responsibilities.'"
     
  • Exemption 7(E):  The court relates that "[u]nder Exemption 7(E), ICE withholds 'internal URLs, case numbers, case categories, subject identification numbers, case identification numbers, and internal identifying codes and departure statuses.'"  "The manner by which ICE employees label cases, access databases, and maintain information regarding a case 'is both a law enforcement technique and procedure that is not commonly known to the public[.]'"  "Further, the declarant explains that disclosure of this information 'could assist unauthorized parties in deciphering the meaning of the codes and numbers, gaining improper access to law enforcement databases, and [could] assist in the unauthorized party's navigation of the law enforcement database.'"  The court finds that "[i]f this information were not protected, persons 'seeking to violate or circumvent the law [could] take proactive steps to counter operational and investigative actions taken by ICE during enforcement operations.'"  "The Court concludes that this type of information properly is withheld under Exemption 7(E)."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court holds that, "[b]ased on the Court's review of ICE's supporting declaration and redacted copies of the EARM records themselves . . . the Court finds that all reasonably segregated material has been released."
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 6
Exemption 7
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7E
Litigation Considerations
Updated July 2, 2018