Ibrahim v. United States Department of State

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ZEAD KHALAF IBRAHIM, Plaintiff, v. Case No. 1:16-cv-01330 (TNM) UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Defendant. MEMORANDUM OPINION Plaintiff Zead Khalaf Ibrahim lives in Jordan as an Iraqi political refugee. He tried to come to the United States, but the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service denied his I-590 Iraqi Resettlement Application and, subsequently, denied his Request for Reconsideration of that denial. At issue in this case is the Department of State’s response to Mr. Ibrahim’s Freedom of Information Act requests for all records in the Department’s possession related to the denial of his application and the denial of his Request for Reconsideration. The Department of State has produced some responsive records and has redacted or withheld other records. Before this Court are the Department of State’s motion for summary judgment and Mr. Ibrahim’s cross- motion for partial summary judgment. Because some exemptions that the Department of State invokes properly apply but others do not, the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part, as will the Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. I. BACKGROUND Mr. Ibrahim alleges that he is a Sunni Muslim who openly supported the American presence in Iraq in the early 2000s and who did business with Americans and non-Muslims at his grocery and convenience store. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 9. Mr. Ibrahim alleges that religious militias in Iraq warned him to stop doing business with Christians and with American soldiers and that they kidnapped and beat him twice. Id. ¶¶ 11-13. He also alleges that he fled from Iraq to Jordan with his family after receiving death threats and being shot by an unknown man. Id. ¶¶ 15-20. Mr. Ibrahim submitted an I-590 Iraqi Resettlement Application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Id. ¶¶ 21, 24. The USCIS denied Mr. Ibrahim’s resettlement application in November, 2010. Id. ¶ 24. Almost a year later, in September 2011, the UNHCR certified Mr. Ibrahim as a refugee. Id. ¶ 21. In October 2011, Mr. Ibrahim submitted his first Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of State, requesting all records in its possession related to the USCIS’s denial of his Resettlement Application. Id. ¶ 30; id. Ex. B 2. In 2014, Mr. Ibrahim submitted a Request for Reconsideration to the USCIS, arguing that it erroneously denied his Resettlement Application and that it should consider new evidence. Id. ¶ 26. At least part of the new evidence in question appears to be Mr. Ibrahim’s diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which he says “explains Mr. Ibrahim’s inability to recall particular facts about his abductions and also explains any inconsistencies in his original Resettlement Application.” Id. ¶ 25. The USCIS denied Mr. Ibrahim’s Request for Reconsideration in April 2014. Id. ¶ 27. In January, 2015, Mr. Ibrahim made a second FOIA 2 request, asking for all records related to the denial ...

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