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HRDC v. ICE, D.C., Complaint, Public Records, 2019

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Case 1:19-cv-00673 Document 1 Filed 03/11/19 Page 1 of 7

U N I T E D S TAT E S D I S C T R I C T C O U RT
F O R T H E D I S T R I C T O F C O LUM B I A
H UM A N R I G H T S D E F E N S E C E N T E R
1028 N Federal Highway
Lake Worth FL 33460

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Plaintiff,
v.

Civil Action
No.

United States Immigration and
Customs Enforcement,
500 12th St., SW
Washington, D.C. 20536
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Defendant.
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_______________________________________ )
COMPLAINT

This lawsuit is an action under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. §552, et seq.,
seeking production of records responsive to requests submitted by the Human Rights
Defense Center to the United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement.

Ju r i s d i c t i o n a n d V e n u e
1. This Court has both subject matter jurisdiction over this action and personal jurisdiction
over the defendant under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 2201(a) and
2202.

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2. Venue is appropriate in this Court under to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) and 28 U.S.C. §1391.

Pa rt i e s
3. Plaintiff Human Rights Defense Center is a non-profit charitable organization
incorporated in the state of Washington, with principal offices in Lake Worth Florida.
4. Defendant United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement is a component of the
United States Department of Homeland Security and an agency under 5 U.S.C.
§552(f)(1) and 5 U.S.C. § 701.

Fa c t s
Human Rights Defense Center ’s Background and Missi on
5. The Human Rights Defense Center (previous name, Prison Legal News) has spent the
last twenty-nine years dedicated to public education, prisoner education, advocacy, and
outreach to support the rights of prisoners and to further basic human rights.
6. To accomplish its mission, HRDC gathers information from governmental entities
around the country and publishes the information in its journals and on its websites.
7. HRDC publishes and distributes books, magazines, and other information containing
news and analysis about prisons, jails and other detention facilities, prisoners’ rights,

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court rulings, management of prison facilities, prison conditions, and other matters
about the rights and interests of incarcerated individuals.
8. HRDC publishes two magazines: Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News.
9. PLN is a legal journal that reports news and litigation about carceral facilities. PLN has
published monthly since 1990 and has around 9,000 subscribers in all 50 states. Based
on reader survey results the estimated actual readership is around ten times that
number. PLN’s subscribers include lawyers, journalists, judges, courts, public libraries
and universities. PLN also maintains a website that receives around 100,000 visitors
per month based on site analytics.
10. CLN is a legal journal launched in November, 2017. CLN reports on criminal law
decisions from the states and federal systems, focusing on legal developments affecting
the fact and duration of confinement. CLN also covers civil rights litigation against
police, prosecutors, and court systems.
11. Through its publishing arm, HRDC also publishes books about the criminal justice
system and legal issues affecting prisoners.
12. HRDC has targeted attention on the price of communication for prisoners and
developed expertise in those areas.

T h e Un i t e d S t a t e s I m m i g r a t i o n a n d C u s t o m E n f o r c e m e n t

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13. United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement (“ICE”) was created in 2003, to
promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil
enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration.
14. ICE employs over 20,000 people in over 400 offices, with a budget of approximately $6
billion.
15. In order to accomplish its mission, ICE enters into contracts with private entities for
certain services and goods.

Request at Issue
16. On August 10, 2018, HRDC sent to the designated ICE email address, ICEFOIA@dhs.gov, a FOIA request for past and active contracts between ICE and private
security contractor MVM, Inc. and any Memoranda of Understanding between ICE
and MVM, Inc. regarding the latter’s work with immigrants and refugees.
17. Specifically, the letter requested contracts numbered:
•

ACL2C0006

•

GS03P02CID0012

•

HSACL5C0001

•

HSCOW2A0064

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HSCEC608D00001

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•

MS03D0001

18. The letter also requested a fee waiver, as HRDC is a media organization.
19. On August 24, 2018, ICE responded via email informing HRDC that the request was
received and assigned processing identification number 2018-ICFO-57555.
20. On September 28, 2018, ICE responded via letter that a search of ICE Office of
Acquisitions did not reveal any responsive records.
21. On November 19, 2018, HRDC sent an administrative appeal to the ICE Office of
the Principal Legal Advisor claiming that the search was inadequate, as the contracts
requested were publicly acknowledged on the online Federal Procurement Data
System. HRDC requested that a reasonable search be conducted and the relevant
contracts be released.
22. On November 29, 2018, the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor sent HRDC a
letter informing it that the administrative appeal was received and assigned processing
identification number 2019-ICAP-00128.
23. On December 26, 2018, the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor sent HRDC a
letter finding:
After a review of the administrative record and the search documentation which
led to the determination on your FOIA request, ICE has determined that new
search(s), or modifications to the existing search(s), could be made. We are
therefore remanding your appeal to the ICE FOIA Office for processing and retasking to the appropriate agency/office(s) to obtain any responsive documents,
should they exist. The ICE FOIA Office will respond directly to you.
24. As of March 8, 2019, the online tool for checking the status of DHS FOIA requests
shows that there is nothing in the system corresponding to 2019-ICAP-00128 and that
2018-ICFO-57555 is closed as of September 29, 2018. Furthermore, the tool, available
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at www.dhs.gov/foia-status indicates it is current only through October 6, 2018.
25. No further information or communication from ICE has been received by HRDC.
26. HRDC never received a response.

HRDC’s Claim for Relief
27. HRDC incorporates paragraphs 1 -26 by reference.
28. ICE wrongly withheld documents responsive to HRDC’s properly submitted request.
29. HRDC has a statutory right to the records it seeks, and there is no basis for ICE to
withhold them.
30. As a result, by failing to release the records specifically requested by HRDC, ICE has
violated FOIA.
31. HRDC has a legal right to the responsive documents.

Requested Relief
HRDC therefore respectfully requests that this Court:
1. Declare that the records sought by HRDC are subject to FOIA;
2. Order the ICE to disclose the requested records: the documents regarding electronic
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messaging services and the documents regarding contracts and payments related to
release payments for prisoners.
3. Award costs and attorney’s fees under 5 USC (a)(4)(E).
4. Grant such other relief as the Court may consider just and proper.

Date: March 11, 2019.

Respectfully submitted,
/s/ Deborah M. Golden
Deborah M. Golden
Human Rights Defense Center
316 F Street, NE #107
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 543-8100
(202) 630-0332 (cell)
D.C. Bar No. 470-578

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