(CN) – The Department of Homeland Security is making “transportation raids” in upstate New York and Pennsylvania on buses and trains that do not cross the international border, and refuses to release information about the roundups, according to a complaint in Manhattan Federal Court.
The DHS and its creature, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, have been making the raids in the Buffalo Sector, which includes 29 counties in upstate New York and Pennsylvania. Agents board Amtrak trains and public buses, looking for undocumented immigrants and criminal aliens, and use racial profiling to meet arrest quotas, according to the complaint.
Families For Freedom, a New York nonprofit, and a Jane Doe who was arrested on a train out of Chicago, want DHS to release documents about the continuing raids.
They seek to release records “related to the scope and practices of immigration surveillance operations in the Buffalo Sector in which Border Patrol officers improperly question bus and train travelers about their immigration status during inter-city conveyances that never cross the border.”
The group says it requested the information in early 2009, but the agency has released only a small portion of the documents.
Jane Doe says she was arrested on the Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited out of Chicago. She says agents questioned her against her will, arrested her and held her for 4 weeks, part of the time in Texas. She says she is facing removal proceedings and needs the information to defend herself.
“Border Patrol’s unlawful transportation raids have had a chilling effect on the ability of United States citizens of color, authorized visitors and immigrants such as foreign students, and undocumented immigrants who wish to travel on domestic transports through the upstate New York Area,” according to the complaint. “These raids have sparked fear and concern throughout these communities.”
While drawing the ire of immigrant rights groups and others, the raids are likely the cause of the Buffalo Sector’s “eight-fold” increase in apprehensions from 2005-08 – a period during which the entire northern border saw only an 11 percent increase in apprehensions, the lawsuit claims.
“CPB has not made statistics publically available to determine whether increased apprehension are of border-crossers, or, as many suspect, these apprehensions are of long-term residents,” according to the lawsuit. “Nor has CPB released information on quotas or other standards that would tend to suggest that agents are pressured to engage in non-consensual questioning or pressured to use race as a convenient outward sign of citizenship status.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Nancy Morawetz of Washington Square Legal Services in Manhattan.