Askins and Ramirez v. DHS, et al.

Askins and Ramirez v. Department of Homeland Security, et al., No. 12-CV-2600 W BLM (S.D. Cal., filed Oct. 24, 2012) & No. 16-55719 (9th Cir., filed May 17, 2016)

This case is about preserving the fundamental First Amendment right to hold our government accountable at the border and challenging CBP’s abusive behavior of those who seek to exercise these rights. Ray Askins is a U.S. citizen and an activist concerned about environmental issues at the border. While standing on a public street in Calexico (inside the United States), he took photographs of the Calexico Port of Entry building to illustrate a presentation he planned to give on vehicle emissions at ports of entry. Christian Ramirez is a U.S. citizen and human rights activist who, while standing on the U.S. side of the border, photographed male CBP officers improperly frisking female travelers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

When they took their photographs, both Mr. Askins and Mr. Ramirez were on the United States side of the border, in areas open to the public. In both cases, CBP officers detained, harassed, and threatened them, temporarily confiscated their cameras, and deleted their photographs. CBP officers also physically abused Mr. Askins. The case seeks to prevent CBP from interfering with or otherwise suppressing the public’s lawful recording of federal border officials’ public activities. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages on behalf of Mr. Askins.

In September 2013, the district court denied in part and granted in part the government’s motion to dismiss. The government then filed a motion for clarification of the court’s order on the motion to dismiss.

In April 2014, the district court granted in part and denied in part the government’s motion for reconsideration. In this order, the district court reaffirmed its First Amendment analysis in its September 2013 order on the government’s motion to dismiss. The court, however, ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs relating to Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claims.  The parties filed supplemental briefs in late spring 2014.

In January 2015, the district court issued another order granting in part the government’s motion for reconsideration. This order addressed Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claims.

Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint responsive to the district court’s orders. Once more, the government moved to dismiss, and Plaintiffs opposed.

In March 2016, the district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ first amended complaint. Plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit; they filed their opening brief on September 26, 2016. The CATO Institute and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed amicus briefs in support of Plaintiffs-Appellants. Appellate briefing was completed in February 2017. On February 16, the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument on Plaintiff’s appeal to S.D. Cal’s dismissal of the first amended complaint. As of April 2018, the Ninth Circuit’s decision is pending.

Counsel: ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties

Contact:  Mitra Ebadolahi | ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties |