ACLU San Diego et al. v. DHS et al. (SoCal Roving Patrols FOIA)

American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties et al v. Department of Homeland Security et al., No. 8:15-cv-00229-JLS-RNB (C.D. Cal., filed Feb. 20, 2015)

This is a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case challenging defendant Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s failure to respond to Plaintiffs’ request for information regarding U.S. Border Patrol’s interior enforcement / “roving patrol” operations in Southern California.

There is little publicly-available information regarding the extent or impact of Border Patrol roving patrol operations, or regarding Border Patrol agents’ respect for regulatory or constitutional limitations on their authority. In Southern California, Border Patrol agents are present throughout a number of both major metropolitan and rural areas a considerable distance from the U.S.-Mexico border, including Fallbrook, CA (seventy miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border), Laguna Beach, CA (almost ninety miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border), and Long Beach, CA (over 100 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border).

Because Border Patrol does not release stop data or other information related to roving patrol operations, Plaintiffs filed a FOIA request with Defendants in July 2014, seeking records related to U.S. Border Patrol’s “roving patrol” operations in the San Diego and El Centro Sectors, including relevant agency policies, stop data, and complaint records.

DHS entirely ignored the request. CBP sent the ACLU a series of contradictory emails, none of which were legally adequate responses under the FOIA itself or DHS regulations. In February 2015, Plaintiffs filed suit in the Central District of California to compel Defendants to release the requested records. On June 23, the Court issued a scheduling order requiring Defendants to produce all responsive records on or before November 2, 2015.

On January 27, 2017, the Court heard arguments on the parties’ respective Motions for Summary Judgment. On February 10, 2017, the Court issued an order denying both Motions for Summary Judgment, and additionally requiring (1) that the government provide specified documents to the Court for in camera review, and (2) that both parties submit supplemental briefing. The parties submitted supplemental briefing on April 5, 2017, and subsequent replies on April 19, 2017.

On August 18, 2017, the Court heard additional arguments on the parties’ Motions for Summary Judgment. On November 6, 2017, the Court issued an order granting in part and denying in party both Motions for Summary Judgment, and additionally requiring the government to submit specified documents to the Court for in camera review. On April 19, 2018, the Court issued a supplemental order granting in part and denying in part both of the parties’ motions. The Court entered a final judgment in the case on May 11, 2018. Neither party will appeal the order, and the parties reached a settlement on costs and fees in November 2018. Productions are now completed, and ACLU hopes to publish the documents sometime in 2019.

Related documents:

Counsel: ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties | ACLU of Southern California | University of California, Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic

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


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., Nos. 15-00247 (D. Ariz., filed Feb. 11, 2015) and 18-15907 (9th Cir., filed May 18, 2018)

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 sought 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 sought 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 (CRCL) and the Office of the Inspector General—have handled complaints related to Border Patrol’s abuse of children.

When the government failed to produce any requested records within the statutorily-allotted time period, Plaintiffs filed suit seeking a court order compelling production.

After lengthy production delays by the agencies, the parties cross moved for summary judgment. Finally, in August 2017, the district court ordered the government to conduct supplemental searches. The court also ordered the government to release the names of  CBP officials and Border Patrol agents credibly alleged to have mistreated children in their custody.

The government moved for reconsideration  of the district court’s ruling that certain DHS officials’ names should be released. In March 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.  The government appealed that order to the Ninth Circuit. Briefing was completed in February 2019 and oral argument will be held in San Francisco on May 16, 2019.

Using the CRCL productions from this lawsuit, the ACLU and the University of Chicago Law School International Human Rights Clinic published a report in May 2018 highlighting some of the egregious abuses reported by children and calling out the lack of meaningful response from DHS’ oversight agencies. The CRCL productions that form the report’s evidentiary basis are attached as an appendix to the report itself. The rest of the productions from this lawsuit will be published in 2019.

Related Documents:

Counsel: Counsel: Mitra Ebadolahi and Sarah Thompson, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties; Whitty Somvichian, Cooley, LLP.

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

Osorio v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Osorio v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 8:14-cv-01758-DOC-AN (C.D. Cal. filed Nov. 4, 2014)

On June 6, 2014, Mr. Osorio filed with CBP a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking “any and all records” under his name.  Mr. Osorio sought the information in order to obtain records from an incident at the border several years earlier, which potentially affected his eligibility to apply for lawful permanent resident status.  In general, with some exceptions, the FOIA statute requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 business days.  After having waited five months for CBP to produce his records, Mr. Osorio filed a lawsuit seeking a court order forcing CBP to conduct a search and produce records related to his request.  Immediately after filing, CBP produced the documents. Mr. Osorio and CBP subsequently settled the case and jointly moved to dismiss it, with the government agreeing to pay costs and attorney fees.

Counsel: Stacy Tolchin

Contact: Stacy Tolchin | 213-622-7450 |

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 |