Davis Wright Tremaine v. CBP

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP v. United States Customs and Border Protection, No. 2:19-cv-00334 (W.D. Wash., filed Mar. 6, 2019)

A Seattle-area law firm filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit against CBP after the agency refused to respond to a FOIA request for information concerning CBP’s widely publicized policy and practice of denying entry to noncitizens due to their involvement with the legal cannabis industry in Canada. Individuals subjected to the policy in the past have been detained and at times even told they are banned for life from entering the United States. In one instance cited in the complaint, the executive commissioner for CBP’s Office of Field Operations, Todd Owen, was quoted as claiming, “If you work for the [cannabis] industry, that is grounds for inadmissibility.” Owens also claimed that CBP had the authority to permanently ban from entering the U.S. even those who only invested in legal cannabis business.

The firm which filed the suit, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, sought access to records to assess whether CBP’s actions are within the scope of the authority granted to it by Congress, whether CBP was acting pursuant to any policies or procedures, and whether it promulgated any such policies or procedures consistent with the procedures Congress has required for agency rulemaking.

On June 16, 2020, plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment was granted in part and denied in part, and CBP’s motion for summary judgment was denied. The court found CBP’s production in response to the FOIA request inadequate, and the parties submitted periodic status reports on the agency’s ongoing production. Chief among the documents produced was a 2018 CBP Information Guide which acknowledged that foreign nationals who work in legal foreign cannabis industries are not inadmissible, assuming their visit to the United States is unrelated to domestic or cross-border cannabis operations – a policy which contradicts statements and actions by CBP in the past regarding Canadian citizens associated with the industry. The parties stipulated to dismiss the case in 2022.

Counsel: Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
Contact:
Bruce Johnson | brucejohnson@dwt.com
Caesar Kalinowski | caesarkalinowski@dwt.com