ACLU of Arizona, et al. v. Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, DHS, et al. – CBP Child Abuse FOIA Litigation

ACLU of Arizona, et al. v. Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, DHS, et al., No. 15-00247 (D. Ariz., filed Feb. 11, 2015)

This lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) challenges the failure of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and several of its component agencies to produce records related to the abuse and mistreatment of children in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its sub-agency, the U.S. Border Patrol. The ACLU affiliates seek the requested records to shed light on longstanding allegations of abusive treatment of children by Border Patrol, including prolonged detention in degrading and inhumane conditions. They also seek information on how the subcomponent agencies within DHS that are responsible for investigating and responding to complaints of abuse by agency personnel—including both the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Office of the Inspector General—have handled complaints related to Border Patrol’s abuse of children.

DHS and the named subcomponent agencies all failed to produce any records within the time period mandated by FOIA. Plaintiffs filed suit after this period elapsed, asking that the court order the agencies to produce the requested records.

In March 2016, the government sought yet another extension of the production deadlines. The district court held that there were no “exceptional circumstances” warranting further extensions, in an order that should be helpful to other FOIA requesters dealing with DHS delays.

The parties cross moved for summary judgment and in August 2017 the district court issued an order directing the defendant agencies to conduct supplemental searches and to release withheld names of certain agents.

On August 28, 2018, the government filed a motion for reconsideration as to the district court’s ruling that CBP had to release the names of certain agents. On March 23, 2018, the district court denied the government’s motion for reconsideration and again ordered the agency to release the names of agents accused of misconduct.  A joint status report is due to the court by May 21, 2018.


In late August 2017, ABC News ran a feature on the case and the documents procured to date by the ACLU.

Counsel: Mitra Ebadolahi and Zoë McKinney, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties; Lauren Pomeroy and Whitty Somvichian, Cooley, LLP; Kathy Brody and Billy Peard, ACLU of Arizona.

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