This lawsuit challenges the failure of DHS and several of its component agencies to produce records related to the abuse and mistreatment of children in the custody of CBP and its sub-agency USBP. The ACLU affiliates seek the requested records to shed light on longstanding allegations of abusive treatment of children by USBP, 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 USBP’s abuse of children.
This case challenges DHS and CBP’s failure to respond to Plaintiffs’ request for information regarding USBP’s interior enforcement / “roving patrol” operations in Southern California.
There is little publicly-available information regarding the extent or impact of USBP roving patrol operations, or regarding USBP agents’ respect for regulatory or constitutional limitations on their authority. In Southern California, USBP agents are present throughout a number of both major metropolitan and rural areas a considerable distance from the U.S.-Mexico border, including Fallbook, CA (seventy miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border) and Laguna Beach, CA (almost ninety miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border).
In March 2017, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) filed a Freedom of Information Act request with CBP seeking agency records relating to Global Entry System (GES) revocations, suspensions, terminations, confirmations, and policy practices. ADC alleged that after the November 2016 presidential election, and significantly accelerating following President Trump’s attempted travel ban implementation, CBP began revoking—without explanation—Global Entry System approval for Arabs and Muslims who previously had been approved for Global Entry. ADC further alleged that the revocations were not isolated incidents but rather part of a wider pattern in which CBP singled out travelers with Arab or Muslim names or ancestries and revoked their GES approval without any accompanying material change in circumstance or security risk. Those singled out for revocation included doctors, bankers, students, and businesspeople. These revocations also corresponded with inexplicably heightened scrutiny by CBP agents towards Arab and Muslim travelers in the wake of the travel ban.
On July 10, 2013, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), submitted a FOIA request to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), seeking records relating to the issuance and implementation of the Officers’ Resource Tool (ORT) and how it has come to replace the Inspector’s Field Manual (IFM). The ORT replaced the IFM, which previously provided guidance regarding the inspection and admission of individuals into the United States at U.S. ports of entry. CBP failed to produce any responsive records and did not respond to AILA’s administrative appeal.
Acting pro se, a former armed security guard under federal contract at the CBP Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) complaint against CBP on December 4, 2015. The complaint alleged that CBP unlawfully redacted or withheld over 80% of the responsive documents that Plaintiff sought in conjunction with an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint he filed alleging that CBP unlawfully terminated him due to his race and his wife’s race and religion.
The American Immigration Council filed a FOIA request with CBP seeking information related to CBP’s complaint process and actions taken in response to complaints filed after January 1, 2012, that concerned agent/officer misconduct.
The Council filed suit after CBP failed to produce any records in response to the FOIA request within the statutory time frame. After the suit was filed, CBP produced a multiple-page spreadsheet listing abbreviated information about thousands of complaints. The parties currently are negotiating for the release of additional documents.
The Ohio State University College of Law Civil Clinic and ABLE filed a FOIA request with CBP on August 18, 2014. The requested documents focus on enforcement efforts of the Sandusky Bay Station (Ohio) of the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), including apprehension and arrest records; records relating to cooperation between USBP and local police; and records of any civil rights investigations against USBP. When no timely response was received, the requesters filed a lawsuit against CBP. The Defendant has, as of October 12, 2015, started a phased delivery of requested information.
In January 2014, the Arizona ACLU and two University of Arizona law professors filed a FOIA request with DHS seeking records related to interior enforcement activities by USBP’s Tucson and Yuma Sectors (covering all of Arizona and a portion of southeastern California) from 2011 to 2014. The request specified that it included complaints and investigations, apprehension statistics, stop records, policies, and training materials.
In September and October 2013, Mr. Patel submitted FOIA requests to DHS and the Department of State respectively, seeking “any and all records” under his name. Mr. Patel sought the information in order to obtain records from an incident at the U.S.-Canada border in 2012 which potentially affected his later application for a U.S. visa.
In 2013, following intense public pressure and a letter from sixteen members of Congress calling upon CBP to address numerous incidents involving excessive force, CBP undertook a comprehensive review of its use of force policies and practices. As part of this review, CBP commissioned a report from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a non-partisan law enforcement think tank based in Washington, DC. PERF completed its review and issued a 23-page report that was highly critical of CBP’s use of force policies and practices. CBP refused to release the report or disclose PERF’s recommendations, and indicated that it would not adopt those recommendations.
On June 6, 2014, Mr. Osorio filed with a FOIA request with CBP seeking “any and all records” under his name. He 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. 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. Mr. Osorio and CBP subsequently settled the case and jointly moved to dismiss it, with the government agreeing to pay cost and attorney fees.
On March 12, 2015, fourteen plaintiffs, including three immigration attorneys and eleven noncitizens, filed a complaint with class allegations in federal district court in the Northern District of California against CBP, seeking redress for its failure to comply with the statutory timelines under FOIA. Plaintiffs challenged a pattern or practice that has resulted in the agency having a backlog of over thirty thousand unanswered requests under FOIA.