Original article from Law360
By Kelly Knaub
Law360, New York (February 23, 2015, 3:41 PM ET) — National Immigration Law Center and other legal aid and public interest groups filed a Freedom of Information Act suit Friday seeking access to records relating to worksite raids led by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement to uncover undocumented workers.
The center, along with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, The Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center, Dolores Street Community Services and National Employment Law Project, allege that ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have failed to adequately comply with an April 12, 2012, written request seeking information regarding the ICE’s administration of its worksite enforcement strategy.
“Having exhausted all of their administrative remedies, plaintiffs are filing the present lawsuit to compel defendants’ compliance with FOIA and the production of the requested records in their entirety,” the lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, ICE and DHS issued their final response to the request on March 24, 2014, but failed to completely produce all of the records that fell within various categories of requested records. Of the ones that were produced, the plaintiffs say, they were heavily redacted.
The plaintiffs say that the agencies’ reliance on statutory exemptions is misplaced and that they are illegally withholding responsive information. They filed the complaint after the agencies denied an appeal last June, but waited until the Office of Inspector General of DHS finished working with them to identify responsive information, they say.
OIG produced and identified a number of documents and delivered them to ICE for review and production by Dec. 18, but the plaintiffs allege that ICE has still not produced the documents and has failed to respond to their inquiry regarding the status of the documents.
The groups say that ICE’s worksite enforcement audits have caused tens of thousands of workers to lose their jobs, health care and homes, and contend that they are entitled to draw their own conclusions about ICE has chosen to implement worksite enforcement. They specifically requested information regarding how and why ICE targets specific workers, the agency’s goals in conducting the audits, its awareness of the impact of its enforcement, factors that influence its enforcement, and the agency’s understanding of its own mandate in this area.
The complaint brings counts of failure to make reasonable efforts to search and wrongful withholding of records, and is seeking injunctive and declaratory relief.
Paul Johnson, an attorney for plaintiffs, told Law360 that the plaintiffs are seeking the information to determine whether ICE is complying with its obligations to ensure that the worksite audits, also known as silent raids, do not undermine the enforcement of labor laws, standards, and safe working conditions for immigrant workers, including compliance with commitments made by DHS to the Department of Labor.
“This information will enable the public to understand how ICE has chosen to implement worksite enforcement and to monitor ICE’s compliance with its own investigative standards, reporting requirements, and humanitarian guidelines,” Johnson said. “Silent raids by ICE in the workplace are a major cause of concern for immigrant families.”
In addition to producing only a limited number of documents, including records that are heavily redacted, Johnson said ICE has also rebuffed the plaintiffs’ repeated efforts to obtain a list of what records are being withheld.
An ICE spokeswoman said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The plaintiffs are represented by Gennaro Filice, Paul Johnson, Richard Normington and Matthew Blaschke of King & Spalding LLP, Paul Chavez of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, Joshua Stehlik of the National Immigration Law Center, and Jaclyn Shull-Gonzalez and Frances Kreimer of Dolores Street Community Services.
Counsel information for defendants was not immediately available Monday.
The case is Dolores Street Community Services et al. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security et al., case number 3:15-cv-786, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
–Editing by Rebecca Flanagan.