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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
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ACLU Demands Answers From Border Patrol

TUCSON (CN) - The Border Patrol blew off two requests for information on roving patrols and internal checkpoints in Southern Arizona, two law professors claim in court.

In a federal FOIA complaint, the ACLU and University of Arizona Professor Derek Bambauer and Associate Professor Jane Yakowitz Bambauer claim that the Department of Homeland Security has failed to respond to requests made in January and February for records that may "shed light on Border Patrol's extensive but largely opaque interior enforcement operations."

The professors seek "records related to U.S. Border Patrol's interior enforcement operations in Tucson and Yuma Sectors, including relevant agency policies, stop data, and complaint records."

The ACLU has since 2012 lodged at least three complaints requesting investigations on behalf of Arizona residents who were "subjected to prolonged detentions, interrogations, unlawful searches, and other mistreatment in the course of Border Patrol interior enforcement operations, including at vehicle checkpoints and in roving patrol stops," according to the new lawsuit.

"The incidence of civil rights violations associated with Border Patrol's interior enforcement operations, which include interior checkpoints and 'roving patrol' stops, is a matter of pressing public concern," the complaint states. "Since 2006, the U.S. Border Patrol has nearly doubled in size, from approximately 12,000 agents to over 21,000 today. The budget for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), of which Border Patrol is a sub-agency, has more than doubled from $6 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 to $12.9 billion in FY 2014. As the agency has expanded, reports of Border Patrol abuses in the Arizona-Sonora region, and throughout the nation, have increased."

Since 2010, DHS has ignored more than 75 complaints of Border Patrol abuse in Southern Arizona's border region, the lawsuit states. The Border Patrol, now known as Customs and Border Protection, is a creature of the DHS.

"The failure of DHS to produce the documents requested by plaintiffs violates the FOIA and impedes plaintiffs' efforts to educate the public on the many questions that remain regarding the full extent and impact of wide-ranging interior enforcement operations conducted by the largest law enforcement agency in the country," the complaint states.

The plaintiffs want the court to order the government to immediately hand over the requested records and to enjoin the agency from charging them processing costs.

"We shouldn't have to go as far as filing a lawsuit to get these records," Professor Bambauer said in a statement. "This is public information about a matter of pressing public concern. We cannot allow DHS and Border Patrol to continue operating in our communities without being subject to public scrutiny."

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