ACLU sues 3 federal agencies for immigration records
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Worried about increasingly aggressive tactics, civil liberties groups in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont sued the federal government Tuesday for records of immigration enforcement actions to get a clearer picture of what’s happened since Republican President Donald Trump took office.
The lawsuit by American Civil Liberties Union affiliates targets the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which are accused of failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for records of raids, arrests and detentions.
Emma Bond, attorney for ACLU of Maine, said people have a right to know about immigration enforcement actions that number in the hundreds in communities across New England.
“They’re going to courthouses. They’re targeting community groups. They’re engaging in racial profiling. This is just the tip of the iceberg, we think,” she said.
Representatives of the three agencies said they don’t comment on pending litigation.
In the complaint, the ACLU groups contend immigration arrests have increased nearly 38 percent across the country — and 50 percent in New England states — in the first 100 days of the Trump administration.
The groups are concerned about incidents like a Somali asylum seeker arrested while meeting with a lawyer at courthouse in Portland; an attempt to deport more than 50 people from Indonesia in New Hampshire; or the targeting of prominent members of Migrant Justice in Vermont.
The only information provided so far to the groups was a one-page document with a breakdown of apprehensions, arrests and border-crossing actions that appeared to top 1,000 in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in 2017. But the ACLU groups said the document provides little detail.
“Border Patrol and ICE are some of the most abusive and least transparent agencies in the federal government and the failure to respond to a lawful FOI request is emblematic of their tendency to act like they’re above the law,” said James Lyall from the ACLU in Vermont.
The FOI request for documents dates back to September 2017.
A New Hampshire court ruled last week that a border patrol checkpoint in Woodstock, New Hampshire, was unconstitutional under both state and federal law.
“Cases like this are exactly why more information is needed about what immigration agents are doing in our states. If we do not keep them in check, they will run roughshod over our laws,” Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the ACLU of New Hampshire, said a statement.
In Maine, the lawsuit is different from one filed a week ago against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to get citizen checkpoint records stemming from a stopped coach bus.
According to that lawsuit, customs agents stopped a bus at the Bangor Transportation Center on Jan. 14 to check the passengers’ citizenship status. It’s just one of many reports of customs agents stopping bus passengers without a warrant or probable cause, the lawsuit said.