Skip to content

Case Detail

[Subscribe to updates]
Case TitleDiocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
DistrictWestern District of Texas
CityEl Paso
Case Number3:2019cv00236
Date Filed2019-08-22
Date Closed2020-10-19
JudgeJudge Frank Montalvo
PlaintiffDiocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.
Case DescriptionDiocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, a non-profit organization working with migrants in El Paso, submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for records concerning policies under the Migrant Protection Protocols applicable to access to counsel DMRS also requested expedited processing. After hearing nothing further from the agency, DMRS filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Expedited processing, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantUnited States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Opinion/Order [72]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in Texas has ruled that Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services is entitled to attorney's fees for its FOIA litigation against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for records concerning why ICE field offices in Southern Texas prevented DMRS from handing out information to migrants about their asylum rights after the Migrant Protection Protocols, which required asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while they waited for U.S. immigration judges to hear their asylum cases, were implemented. Although ICE was apparently unaware of the request until DMRS filed suit, ICE identified 92 pages of potentially responsive documents. The agency provided 10 pages in full, 28 pages with redactions. Another 14 pages were deemed duplicates while 40 pages were referred to other agencies or components. An administrative error delayed the referral process. ICE asked for five more extensions but ultimately disclosed 33 of the 40 referred pages. After holding a trial, the court concluded that ICE had not conducted an adequate search and it had not justified its Exemption 5 (privileges) claims. The court ordered ICE to conduct a new search, which yielded 86,000 potentially responsive records. ICE agreed to assign 30 percent of its FOIA staff to conduct the first line review full-time. ICE also assigned 15 attorneys for a second line review. ICE estimated the review would require four months. ICE did not appeal the order. Finding that DMRS had substantially prevailed for purposes of eligibility for an attorney's fees award, the court turned to a discussion of the four factors used in assessing a fee award " the public interest in disclosure, the commercial or personal interest in disclosure, and the reasonableness of the agency's withholding. The court found the public interest in disclosure was high, noting that "as this information is both of public concern and useful to political decision making, the diffusion of documents will spread beyond legal service providers to the wider public." The court indicated that DRMS had no commercial or personal interest in the disclosure of the records. Turning to the reasonableness of the agency's processing of the request, the court found that both the agency's search and its exemption claims were insufficient. The court noted that "there is no reasonable basis in law to believe ICE's search was reasonably calculated to uncover all responsive documents." The court added that "the returned search forms indicate different search terms were used across program offices without any apparent reason for the lack of uniformity." The court found ICE fared no better on the issue of exemptions. The court pointed out that "ICE did less than the bare minimum to justify its exemptions and instead attempted to shift the burden to the court and to DMRS. This forced DMRS to expend considerably more in attorney labor and fees to litigate exemptions to documents produced at the eleventh hour and without the easy remedy of a Vaughn index." The court granted DMRS $51,937.50 in fees.
Issues: Litigation - Attorney's fees - Prevailing party, Litigation - Attorney's fees - Entitlement - Reasonable Basis for Withholding
User-contributed Documents
 030 Order Denying Pl MSJ
043 Pl Proposed Findings of Fact and Concl of Law
044 Findings of Fact and Concl of Law
072 Order Granting App for Attorney Fees
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2019-08-221COMPLAINT ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0542-12516092). No Summons requested at this time, filed by Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet)(Coyle, Lynn) (Entered: 08/22/2019)
2019-08-222REQUEST FOR ISSUANCE OF SUMMONS by Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.. (Coyle, Lynn) (Entered: 08/22/2019)
2019-08-22Case assigned to Judge Frank Montalvo. CM WILL NOW REFLECT THE JUDGE INITIALS AS PART OF THE CASE NUMBER. PLEASE APPEND THESE JUDGE INITIALS TO THE CASE NUMBER ON EACH DOCUMENT THAT YOU FILE IN THIS CASE. (mn) (Entered: 08/23/2019)
2019-08-22If ordered by the court, all referrals will be assigned to Magistrate Judge Schydlower (mn) (Entered: 08/23/2019)
2019-08-233Summons Issued as to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (mn) (Entered: 08/23/2019)
2019-08-294SUMMONS Returned Executed by Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement served on 8/26/2019, answer due 10/25/2019. (Coyle, Lynn) (Entered: 08/29/2019)
2019-09-255ANSWER to 1 Complaint . Attorney Manuel Romero added to party United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement(pty:dft) by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.(Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 09/25/2019)
2019-09-306Order for Scheduling Recommendations/Proposed Scheduling Order. Scheduling recommendations/proposed scheduling order due to the Court within sixty (60) days after the appearance of any defendant. Scheduling Recommendations/Proposed Scheduling Order due by 10/30/2019,. Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 09/30/2019)
2019-10-307Proposed Scheduling Order Joint Proposed Scheduling Order by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 10/30/2019)
2019-11-048SCHEDULING ORDER: Bench Trial set for 7/27/2020 01:00 PM before Judge Frank Montalvo, Consent to Trial by Magistrate due by 12/2/2019, Amended Pleadings due by 12/12/2019, Discovery due by 3/25/2020, Motions due by 5/25/2020,. Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (mt) (Entered: 11/04/2019)
2019-11-279NON-CONSENT to Trial by US Magistrate Judge by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 11/27/2019)
2020-01-0210WITNESS/EXHIBIT/EXPERT LIST by Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc. . (Benoit, Christopher) (Entered: 01/02/2020)
2020-02-1011Unopposed MOTION to Extend Scheduling Order Deadlines by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 02/10/2020)
2020-02-1412WITNESS/EXHIBIT/EXPERT LIST by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement . (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 02/14/2020)
2020-02-2613ORDER DENYING 11 Motion to Extend Scheduling Order Deadlines Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 02/26/2020)
2020-05-2214MOTION for Summary Judgment by Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.. (Coyle, Lynn) (Entered: 05/22/2020)
2020-06-0315Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 06/03/2020)
2020-06-0516ORDER GRANTING 15 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply. It is FURTHER ORDERED that United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement shall file a response to "Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment" [ECF No. 14], if any, no later than June 19, 2020. Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (fm) (Entered: 06/05/2020)
2020-06-1717Second MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 06/17/2020)
2020-06-1818ORDER GRANTING 17 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 06/18/2020)
2020-06-2519Third MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 06/25/2020)
2020-06-2620ORDER GRANTING 19 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 06/26/2020)
2020-07-1021Unopposed MOTION for Leave to File to file out of time Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment with Exhibit A- Defendant's Fourth Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 07/10/2020)
2020-07-1322ORDER GRANTING 21 Motion for Leave to File Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 07/13/2020)
2020-07-1323MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (jg1) (Entered: 07/13/2020)
2020-07-1324ORDER GRANTING 23 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 07/13/2020)
2020-07-1525ORDER, ( Bench Trial RESET for 8/31/2020 01:00 PM before Judge Frank Montalvo,). Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 07/15/2020)
2020-07-1726Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 07/17/2020)
2020-07-1727ORDER GRANTING 26 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 07/17/2020)
2020-07-2428Response in Opposition to Motion, filed by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, re 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc. (Attachments: # 1 Attach. 1, # 2 Exhibit A)(Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 07/24/2020)
2020-07-2929REPLY to Response to Motion, filed by Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc., re 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Exhibits 1-4)(Benoit, Christopher) (Entered: 07/29/2020)
2020-08-2530ORDER DENYING 14 Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (fm) (Entered: 08/25/2020)
2020-08-2631ORDER, ( Pretrial Conference set for 8/27/2020 01:00 PM before Judge Frank Montalvo,). Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 08/26/2020)
2020-08-2632Joint MOTION for Leave to File Parties' Local Rule 16(e) Pre-Trial Filings by Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Joint Pre-Trial Submissions)(Benoit, Christopher) (Entered: 08/26/2020)
2020-08-2733ORDER GRANTING 32 Motion for Leave to File Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 08/27/2020)
2020-08-2734NOTICE of Filing PARTIES LOCAL RULE 16(e) PRE-TRIAL FILINGS by Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc., United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (jg1) (Entered: 08/27/2020)
2020-08-2735NOTICE to the Court by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1)(Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 08/27/2020)
2020-08-2736Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Frank Montalvo: Pretrial Conference held on 8/27/2020 (Minute entry documents are not available electronically.). (Court Reporter nbenavides.)(jg1) (Entered: 08/28/2020)
2020-09-2137NOTICE of Filing Parties' Amended Local Rule 16(e) Pre-Trial Filings by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 09/21/2020)
2020-09-2838ORDER, ( Status Conference set for 9/29/2020 09:30 AM before Judge Frank Montalvo,). Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 09/28/2020)
2020-09-2939Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Frank Montalvo: Status Conference held on 9/29/2020 (Minute entry documents are not available electronically.). (Court Reporter nbenavides.)(jg1) (Entered: 09/29/2020)
2020-10-0240Exhibit List Parties' First Amended Trial Exhibits by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.. (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 10/02/2020)
2020-10-0641Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Frank Montalvo: Bench Trial held on 10/6/2020 (Minute entry documents are not available electronically.). (Court Reporter nbenavides.)(jg1) (Entered: 10/06/2020)
2020-10-0942Proposed Findings of Fact by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Romero, Manuel) (Entered: 10/09/2020)
2020-10-0943Proposed Findings of Fact by Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.. (Benoit, Christopher) (Entered: 10/09/2020)
2020-10-1944FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW. Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 10/19/2020)
2020-10-1945FINAL JUDGMENT. Signed by Judge Frank Montalvo. (jg1) (Entered: 10/19/2020)
Hide Docket Events
by FOIA Project Staff
Skip to toolbar