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Gosen v. United States Citizenship & Immigration Servs.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

December 4, 2014

NELSON J. MEZERHANE GOSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES, Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For NELSON JOSE MEZERHANE GOSEN, Plaintiff: Sandra Andrea Grossman, GROSSMAN LAW, LLC, Rockville, MD.

For CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES, Defendant: John Cuong Truong, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Nelson Mezerhane Gosen (" Mezerhane Gosen" ) is the former owner of the Venezuelan television station Globovisión and a critic of the current Venezuelan regime. In August of 2010, Mezerhane Gosen applied for asylum in the United States, claiming politically-motivated persecution. After three years passed and a final asylum status determination still had not been issued, Mezerhane Gosen filed a document request under the Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 552, seeking all information related to his application for asylum in the United States. In response to this request, Defendant U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (" USCIS" ) initially released 498 pages in full, and also partially or fully withheld an additional 139 pages of responsive documents. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Some back and forth between the parties ensued; 77 pages of responsive documents remain at issue at this point.

Before this Court at present are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. ( See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (" Def.'s Mot." ), ECF No. 17; Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. and X-Mot. for Summ. J. (" Pl.'s Mot." ), ECF No. 20.) USCIS maintains that it has properly withheld the remaining contested documents on the basis of FOIA Exemptions 5, 6, 7(C), and 7(E) because those documents are subject to the deliberative process privilege, or implicate substantial privacy interests that are not outweighed by any public interest, or could potentially reveal sensitive information about law enforcement techniques. Mezerhane Gosen responds that the remaining contested documents are being withheld improperly, and probably so because they are likely to reveal impropriety in the handling of his asylum application. ( See Pl.'s Mem. of P& A in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot. (" Pl.'s Mem." ), ECF No. 20-1, at 7 (" There is concrete evidence of troubling Agency behavior and lack of compliance with Agency regulations in this case that cannot be fully uncovered without the transparency that FOIA requires." ).)[1]

On October 16, 2014, this Court ordered that USCIS provide to the Court all 77 contested pages for in camera review. Having now had the opportunity to review these documents--and also having reviewed the recent opinion of another judge in this district in an essentially identical FOIA case involving Mezerhane Gosen's daughter, see Mezerhane de Schnapp v. USCIS, No. CV 13-1461, 67 F.Supp.3d 95, 2014 WL 4436925, at *1 (D.D.C. Sept. 9, 2014) (Bates, J.)--this Court concludes that Defendant's motion for summary judgment must be GRANTED IN PART because FOIA Exemptions 6, 7(C), and 7(E) were properly applied. However, given that there remains a genuine dispute of material fact as to the applicability of Exemption 5, Defendant's motion for summary

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judgment will be DENIED IN PART, and Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment will be DENIED in full. A separate order ...


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