Stella Bonin v. Aldana et al.

Stella Bonin v. Aldana et al., No. 3:17-cv-00265-DMS-WVG (S.D. Cal, filed Feb. 10, 2017)

In February 2015, Stella Bonin, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was traveling west on Interstate 8 from Phoenix, Arizona, to the East County Animal Hospital in El Cajon, California.  Acting on the advice of Arizona Humane Society Veterinary Clinic veterinarian Dr. Alondra Velez, Ms. Bonin was transporting her 15-year-old diabetic, blind, deaf miniature schnauzer Jake to the Animal Hospital for specialty care.  En route, she was pulled over by U.S. Border Patrol agents and interrogated without being permitted to leave; she was then made to drive her vehicle under Border Patrol escort to the Campo Border Patrol Station, where she was interrogated further.  At the Campo Station, Border Patrol agents also searched Ms. Bonin’s vehicle searched without her consent.  In all, Ms. Bonin was detained for over two hours without legal justification; the entire time, she was extremely worried about Jake’s deteriorating condition.  Ms. Bonin was finally allowed to proceed, and was never charged with any offense.

On June 4, 2015, the ACLU of San Diego Border Litigation Project submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, seeking release of records relating to Ms. Bonin’s stop, detention, and search.

In July 2015, both ICE and OIG issued final response letters stating that neither agency had any records responsive to the Request and informing Ms. Bonin of her statutory right to appeal. She appealed, and her appeals were subsequently denied. Neither CBP nor any other agency within the Department of Homeland Security, other than ICE and OIG, ever responded to Ms. Bonin’s request.

On February 10, 2017, under the Federal Tort Claims Act, Ms. Bonin submitted an administrative complaint to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, alleging the torts of false arrest and false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, trespass to chattels, and negligence.

Additionally, on February 10, 2017, the Border Litigation Project filed a federal complaint in the Southern District of California on Ms. Bonin’s behalf, alleging violations of her Fourth Amendment rights. The complaint also includes claims against CBP for their failure to comply with FOIA.

On March 17, 2017, Defendants submitted an answer to the FOIA claims.

Counsel: ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties

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