Goldhar v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection et al.

Goldhar v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection et al., No. 1:21-cv-23197-BB (S.D. Fla., filed Sept. 3, 2021)

Plaintiff Gaby Or Goldhar, a citizen of Israel, challenges U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s wrongful cancellation of her B-2 visitor visa in 2019. When entering the United States through the Miami International Airport on July 15, 2019, a CBP officer cancelled Ms. Goldhar’s B-2 visa based on an erroneous determination that she had accrued unlawful presence during her prior visits to the United States and thus was inadmissible. Ultimately, CBP acknowledged its mistake and admitted Ms. Goldhar into the United States after waiving the visa requirement on a Form I-193. However, because the visa in her passport was physically invalidated, Ms. Goldhar has been unable to travel to the United States ever since. Although she was invited to apply for a replacement visa, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly restricted U.S. consular operations abroad, resulting in extremely long wait times for visa processing. Ms. Goldhar wishes to attend her grandson’s bar mitzvah in Florida in January 2022, but she likely will be unable to obtain a new B-2 visa by then.

Ms. Goldhar claims that CBP’s wrongful cancellation of her visa violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), as it constituted agency action that was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). Among other things, she requests that the district court order CBP to “immediately take such correction action as may be appropriate, including, but not limited to, reversing the cancellation of [her] B-2 visa” and “treating it as a valid entry document through its stated expiration date.”

On November 8, 2021, Plaintiff filed an expedited motion for summary judgment. Defendants filed motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and a response to the expedited motion in November. Parties reached a settlement on December 2, 2021 and the case was administratively closed.



Counsel: David Elliott Gluckman | McCandlish Holton PC

Tammy Jean Fox-Isicoff | Rifkin & Fox-Isicoff, P.A.

Contact: David Gluckman | 804-775-3826 |

Llamas et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection et al.

Llamas et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection et al., No. 6:2021-cv-01169 (M.D. Fla., filed July 18, 2021)

After the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, civil unrest and protests spread across the United States. In response to the protests, the federal government deployed officials from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS), among others, to different U.S. cities and engaged in aerial surveillance of those participating in the protests.

In January 2021, Noelle Llamas and Ken Klippenstein, respectively a college student and a reporter for The Intercept, submitted six Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to CBP, ICE, FBI, USMS, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking records related to emails sent from specific officials during the period of May 25, 2020 to August 15, 2020 in an attempt to learn more about the messaging related to each federal agency’s deployment of law enforcement officials during this period of time. In particular, the requests sought records concerning each agency’s internal messaging and responses to news media inquiries about the deployments.

Although the agencies acknowledged receipt of each request, Llamas and Klippenstein did not receive a final determination on any of them. On July 18, 2021, they filed suit against the agencies for the records sought in their FOIA requests. Defendants filed their answer on September 20, 2021. The court set February 27, 2023 as the filing deadline for motions for summary judgment.


Counsel: Elizabeth E. Bourdon, B.C.S.

Contact: Elizabeth (Beth) Bourdon |

Americans for Immigrant Justice, Inc. v. CBP, et al. (Rio Grande Hieleras FOIA)

Americans for Immigrant Justice, Inc. v. CBP, et al.
No. 1:14-cv-20945 KMW (S.D. Fla. Filed Mar. 13, 2014)

Americans for Immigrant Justice, Inc. (AI Justice) has sued CBP and DHS under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for their failure to produce any records in response to a request which sought records pertaining to CBP’s short-term detention policies and procedures, particularly as implemented in the Rio Grande Valley (Valley) in Texas.  In 2013, AI Justice interviewed over 100 individuals who had been detained in CBP holding cells in the Valley prior to being transferred to ICE detention in Miami.  These individuals uniformly reported deplorable conditions in the holding cells. They reported that Border Patrol agents refer to the cells as “hieleras,” which is Spanish for “iceboxes.”  The agents use this term because they keep the temperatures in the cells unbearably low, so that the detainees always are extremely cold.  Additionally, the holding cells are overcrowded; have no beds, although most detainees reported being there at least several days, with some being held up to two weeks; have no bathing facilities and few toiletries; and have toilets that are out in the open.  The detainees also complained of being served inadequate food.  The AI Justice FOIA seeks records relating to these holding cells for the period 2008 through 2013.

CBP finally produced some responsive records, and the parties subsequently agreed to dismiss the case by stipulation on September 10, 2015.

Counsel: Americans for Immigrant Justice

Contact: Jennie Santos |

FTCA Administrative Complaints of Four Women Denouncing Hieleras

FTCA Administrative Complaints of Four Women Denouncing Hieleras (filed Mar. 12, 2013)

On various dates in early 2013, four women were apprehended at the United States Texas border by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents.  After being apprehended, they were taken by CBP to what the agents called a “hielera,” which is Spanish for “icebox” or “icemaker.”  The hieleras are holding cells which agents often maintain at very low temperature.  The women all describe cells in which dozens of detainees were crowded together.  The cells had no beds, no chairs and each had only a single toilet and sink sitting in the open in the corner.  The women were kept in the cells for as long as 13 days.

The cells were so cold that the women’s fingers and lips turned blue.  They often were fed only one meal a day consisting of a single sandwich, which frequently was frozen. They received nothing to drink other than water, which they had to retrieve from the sink, using their hands or a single cup shared by everyone in the cell.  They were not given blankets or pillows.  Sleeping on the freezing cold floor was next to impossible.  Pregnant women and women with children were present in the cells.

Two of the women are diabetics whose prescriptions were confiscated at the time they were apprehended and never returned.  Both suffered medical problems after their medication was taken from them.  One of them passed out twice and finally was taken to the local hospital’s emergency room.

None of the women were afforded access to a shower or a bath.  Two of them had their menstrual cycles while detained but had no access to a bathroom for bathing.  There was no soap, no change of underwear, and no toothbrushes or toothpaste.

CBP agents regularly asked each of the women to sign documents printed in English, which the women could not read and did not understand.  Agents threatened that they would be kept in the holding cell until they signed these documents.  These agents also referred to them in demeaning ways, including calling them “bitches.”  Only one of the women was asked whether she had a fear of returning to her country of origin, as required, though several of them do.  Eventually, most of the women signed the documents in order to end their suffering in the cold holding cells.  Though they did not understand it at the time, they had signed expedited removal orders. Each of the women was subsequently transferred to a Texas jail and then to a detention facility in Florida while awaiting removal.  All the women filed administrative complaints for damages against the United States for the suffering they endured at the hands of CBP agents. One of these women, Alba Quinonez Florez, subsequently sued the U.S. government in federal court based on the abuses described above.

The government failed to respond to the administrative complaint within the six-month deadline. None of the claimants decided to file a federal complaint.

Counsel: Americans for Immigrant Justice

Contact: Jennie Santos | AI Justice |


FTCA Administrative Complaint Against the United States Denouncing Hieleras

FTCA Administrative Complaint Against the United States Denouncing Hieleras (filed Mar. 12, 2013)

Jose Alberto* was apprehended at the United States Texas border by Customs and Border Protection and was told by an agent that he was being taken to a “hielera” (“freezer” or “icebox”). Mr. Alberto was placed in a small, freezing cold holding cell with approximately thirty men. The temperature was so cold that Mr. Alberto’s lips split and his face became red and felt sunburned. The cell had no beds or chairs, and had a single toilet, a sink, and two urinals out in the open. The cold made it difficult to sleep, and the size of the cell made it impossible for all of the men in the cell to lie down at the same time. The only water provided to the men was in a single thermos, shared by all. The water smelled like bleach and burned Mr. Alberto’s throat when he drank it. Mr. Alberto was held in one “hielera” for one day and night, and was transferred to a second similar “hielera” at another location, where he spent another day before he was ultimately transported to Broward Transitional Center in Florida.

While in the holding cells, Mr. Alberto was called out to speak with an officer. After answering some questions about his family, Mr. Alberto was told he had to sign documents printed in English, which Mr. Alberto does not speak or read. He repeatedly refused to sign the documents and asked what the documents said. The CBP agent ultimately told Mr. Alberto they were for his “deportation.” Mr. Alberto refused to sign the documents, saying he was afraid to go back to his country because he would be killed by a gang. The CBP agent told Mr. Alberto that he would send him to federal prison if he did not sign. Mr. Alberto became upset and began crying, and the CBP agent laughed and mocked him. After he continued to refuse to sign the documents, Mr. Alberto was taken back to the holding cell and again threatened with being sent to federal prison.

After arriving at the Broward Transitional Center, Mr. Alberto filed an FTCA administrative complaint. 

The government failed to respond to the administrative complaint within the six-month deadline. Mr. Alberto decided not to file a federal complaint.

*Not his actual name.

Counsel: Americans for Immigrant Justice

Contact: Jennie Santos |