Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
For years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the component of the Department of Homeland Security tasked with preventing illegal entries into the United States, has employed unlawful tactics that violate the rights of U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike. The public knows relatively little about CBP’s activities, and this lack of transparency has made it difficult to hold CBP officers, including Border Patrol agents, accountable for misconduct. The LAC is engaged in administrative advocacy and litigation intended to expose CBP’s unlawful practices and promote policies that safeguard the civil liberties of all persons who cross our borders.
Lawsuit Against DHS for Failure to Disclose Records on “Voluntary” Returns
AIC v. DHS and CBP, No. 1:12-cv-00932 (D.D.C. filed June 8, 2010)
In June 2012, the LAC, in collaboration with Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, filed suit against DHS and CBP for unlawfully withholding records concerning voluntary returns of noncitizens from the United States to their countries of origin. Voluntary return, also known as “administrative voluntary departure,” is a procedure whereby CBP officers permit noncitizens to voluntarily depart the United States at their own expense rather than undergo formal removal proceedings. Noncitizens may be granted voluntary return to their countries of origin after conceding unlawful presence in the United States and knowingly and voluntarily waiving the right to contest removal.
Based on reports from immigration advocates, CBP officers do not always provide noncitizens with information regarding the consequences of accepting voluntary return and in some cases even compel them to “agree” to “voluntarily” depart. Consequently, individuals who accept voluntary departure may be forced to relinquish claims for legal status in the U.S. or become barred from lawfully reentering the United States for up to ten years.
The LAC filed a detailed FOIA request regarding these practices in June 2011. CBP produced four pages of records with the promise of more to come. After waiting almost a year for additional documents, the LAC filed suit under the FOIA. Since filing suit, the parties have engaged in negotiations and CBP has continued to search for and produce additional documents. With the exception of the filing of CBP’s Answer, the litigation has been stayed while this negotiation and continued search and production of documents is ongoing.
Lawsuit Seeking CBP Guidance on Access to Counsel
AIC v. DHS and CBP, No. 1:11-cv-01972 (D.D.C. filed Nov. 8, 2011)
The LAC has filed a suit against DHS and CBP to compel the release of records relating to noncitizens’ access to counsel before CBP. Read more about this suit (as well as similar suits against USCIS and ICE) on the LAC's Access to Counsel Before DHS webpage.
FOIA Requests regarding Border Patrol Involvement in Translation and 911 Dispatch Activities
Advocates in states along the northern border of the United States have reported that Border Patrol agents frequently “assist” other law enforcement agencies by serving as Spanish-English interpreters and participating in 911 dispatch activities. Capitalizing on their access to noncitizens, Border Patrol agents often use these opportunities to question individuals about their immigration status and, in many cases, initiate removal proceedings. These practices unconstitutionally target individuals for deportation based on the fact that they look or sound foreign and discriminate against Spanish speakers whose access to interpretation is conditioned on answering questions about immigration status.
In May 2012, on behalf of an alliance of immigration advocacy groups, the LAC filed FOIA requests with CBP and DHS seeking information regarding CBP policies on providing translation assistance to other law enforcement agencies and on participating in 911 dispatch activities. The alliance is seeking documents explaining the relevant legal authority, applicable procedural guidance, training materials, statistical data, and complaints filed with the government as a result of CBP’s practices. Through their FOIA requests, the alliance —which includes the American Immigration Council, the Michigan Organizing Project/Alliance for Immigrants & Reform Michigan, Migrant Justice, the New York Immigration Coalition, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and OneAmerica—hopes to promote greater transparency regarding these unlawful practices.
Translation Assistance FOIA
911 Dispatch Activities FOIA