Adelante Alabama Worker Center, et al. v. Department of Homeland Security and Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Government Transparency - FOIA
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District Court
Case Description: 

The Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for reviewing and assessing civil rights and civil liberties abuses by DHS employees and officials and investigating possible abuses of civil rights and civil liberties, among other duties. In 2015, CRCL noted in its annual report to Congress that it had sent a “super-recommendations memo” to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “formally notifying [ICE] of [CRCL’s] long-standing and continuing concerns” about a detention facility in Alabama. The memo recommended that ICE either enact reforms to bring the facility into compliance with national standards or cease use of the facility.

In September 2016, several civil rights and immigrant rights groups sent a FOIA request to CRCL requesting that CRCL disclose the 2015 super-recommendations memo. CRCL responded by acknowledging the existence of responsive records but withholding them in full under exemption 5. Following CRCL’s failure to change its position following an administrative appeal, Public Citizen Litigation Group filed a lawsuit on behalf of five of the requesters—Adelante Alabama Worker Center, Detention Watch Network, Greater Birmingham Ministries, Immigrant Defense Project, and Southerners On New Ground—challenging CRCL’s and DHS’s withholding of the memo.

On February 9, 2018, DHS produced the “super-recommendations memo” along with several attachments, which contained significant redactions throughout.

On May 9, 2018, DHS filed a motion for summary judgment as to the withheld information. On June 8, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a cross-motion for judgment and opposition to DHS’s motion for summary judgment challenging certain withholdings. Specifically, Plaintiffs challenged DHS’s withholdings of (1) certain information under exemption 5 pursuant to the deliberative process privilege and (2) the names and professional backgrounds of subject-matter experts hired by DHS under exemption 6. Briefing on the cross-motions for summary judgment was completed in July 2018.