Moore v. U.S. Immigr. & Customs Enf’t, No. EP-19-CV-00279-DCG, (W.D. Tex., filed Oct. 1, 2019)
From June 2018 to March 2019, Plaintiff Robert Moore, a journalist, submitted five Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), seeking critical records related to border enforcement, fundamental shifts in the treatment of people seeking asylum, and operation of immigration detention facilities in El Paso. Among other requests, Mr. Moore asked that CBP release any and all directives, emails, text messages and other communications from CBP officials regarding the handling of people seeking asylum at ports of entry when port facilities are at “capacity.” He also requested information related to CBP’s use of a “field force demonstration” in a community next to the border on the day of mid-term elections in November 2018. When the three agencies failed to timely produce responsive records, Mr. Moore filed a lawsuit on October 1, 2019, to compel the agencies to conduct searches and produce responsive records.
On December 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Court stayed the motion and set a production schedule.
In a series of motions, the parties have litigated the speed at which CBP must review and produce responsive records, notwithstanding the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 8, 2020, Plaintiff moved for the Court to lift the stay and to enter a finite production schedule. The Court allowed the stay to remain in place, in light of the global pandemic, but ordered a finite production schedule. On November 19, 2020 (the day before the production deadline), at 4:56 p.m., CBP filed a motion for a new stay of proceedings pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C) and Open America v. Watergate Special Prosecution Force, 547 F.2d 605 (D.C. Cir. 1976), and to extend the deadline under the finite production schedule.
On January 12, 2021, the Court denied CBP’s request for an Open America stay. The Court ordered Defendants to respond to Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, ordered the parties to confer regarding a revised finite production schedule, and ordered CBP to produce weekly status reports to the Court for the duration of the case. The Court explained that the weekly reports, accompanied by a declaration, “SHALL detail CBP’s progress and developments in processing both Plaintiff’s FOIA requests and track the specific number of files/records/documents and total amount of pages reviewed that week and how many are outstanding for each individual FOIA request. Any incomplete, late, or seemingly cloned (‘copied-and-pasted’) submissions SHALL not be deemed to comply with this Order.”
The case was set for a bench trial on September 15, 2021, related to the withholding of information from CBP’s FOIA production. On September 14, 2021, CBP rolled back certain redactions from its production, resolving the issues that were to be presented at trial. The parties submitted a joint motion to retain the case while fees are resolved.
- Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
- Plaintiff’s Motion to Lift Stay and for Finite Production Schedule
- Plaintiff’s Response to Defendant CBP’s Motion for Open America Stay
- Court Order Denying Open America Stay
- Defendants’ Response to Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
- Plaintiff’s Reply to Defendants’ Response to Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
- Order Denying Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
Counsel: Law Office of Lynn Coyle, PLLC