Assadi v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

U.S. DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Government

New York Law Journal

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Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis

The Fraud Detection and National Security Unit (FDNS) of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) investigates suspected fraudulent immigration applications. An FDNS officer's findings are memorialized in a "summary of findings"(SOF) to the CIS officer adjudicating the case. SOFs are not independent of adjudicator's review. Under the Freedom of Information Act, Assadi sought disclosure of eight SOF reports. Despite releasing 23 pages of responsive documents, CIS claimed the SOFs wereprotected under FOIA Exemptions 5 and 6—the "deliberative process privilege" and privacy exemption. The court granted CIS partial summary judgment, finding the SFOs properly withheld under Exemption 5. Contrary to memoranda in Coastal States Gas v. Dep't of Energy, the SOFs were created to aid an investigator in deciding whether to award immigration benefits. After in camera review, the court found the SOFs "predominantly evaluative" and that disclosure of purely factual matter therein would reveal the deliberative process itself by showing which facts in the fraud investigation process were significant. Also, Exemptions 6 and 7(c) applied to the SOFs' personal information about investigators and third parties.

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