Skip to comments.ACLU sues Border Patrol over inland sweeps
Posted on 12/16/2004 11:08:57 AM PST by Smogger
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the government Wednesday in an effort to obtain records involving Border Patrol arrests this summer in Southern California's inland areas, including Ontario. The ACLU said it filed the suit in federal court in Los Angeles because the U.S. Customs and Border Protection - which oversees Border Patrol agents - did not comply with its requests for information in July.
More than 400 undocumented immigrants were arrested in June by the Mobile Patrol Group of the Temecula Border Patrol Station, including 79 in Ontario and 75 in Corona.
"We think that the community's questions about why the raids happened remain unanswered," said Ranjana Natarajan, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. "Our hope is that in these documents, we can get to the bottom of why they occurred in the first place and whether they were conducted in a lawful manner."
Mario Villarreal of the U.S. Customs & Border Patrol said late Wednesday that it would be inappropriate to comment on the pending lawsuit as it had not yet been reviewed.
He did take issue, however, with language the ACLU used in a press release about the case.
"These were absolutely not raids," Villarreal said. "Everything was driven by intelligence that had been previously gathered ... by various sources, law enforcement, from the community themselves."
ACLU officials are seeking records involving the number of people questioned, detained and deported along with the agency's justification and authorization of the inland area arrests. The group also seeks information about the law enforcement methods and techniques used, according to the lawsuit.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, a public agency has 20 days to respond to an information request. After getting no response, ACLU officials filed an appeal. The agency said it was suffering from a backlog of requests but did not say whether it plans to answer the request, Natarajan said.
"These raids were extremely unusual, as the CBP's usual jurisdiction is limited to areas at or near an international border," according to the lawsuit.
Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary of border and transportation security, said this summer that while Border Patrol acted within its legal authority during the inland raids, it should have received prior approval from its Washington headquarters because of the distance from the border.
Border Patrol members have argued they have the right to enforce the law anywhere in the country, but the 12-man Mobile Patrol Group has now been relegated closer to the border, said T.J. Bonner, president of the union that represents Border Patrol employees nationwide.
Bonner said he believes that much of the information the ACLU is requesting probably does not exist.
"If in fact (agents) were required to keep the kinds of records they were fishing for, it would tie our hands more than they are already," Bonner said. "It would be like you trying to fill out a detailed justification for every contact that you made."
The ACLU lawsuit, just as the arrests this summer, drew intense criticism as well as cheers from the community.
Activist Jose Calderon, a Pitzer College professor, said he was hopeful the lawsuit would cause the release of documents that would prove that human rights were violated and that racial profiling was used as he and others suspect.
"We had at least two meetings with Border Patrol to try to find out some of that information and we got very little back," said Calderon, president of San Gabriel Valley and Inland Valley Latino Round Table. "In fact, we got more information from television."
Andy Ramirez, executive director of Friends of the Border Patrol, said he believes the lawsuit is ludicrous.
"It's nothing more than flexing muscle. For what? Illegal aliens," Ramirez said. "They are not flexing their muscles for American citizens."
Groups such as the ACLU, he said, "won't let the Border Patrol agents and (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) do their jobs and enforce the laws."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In June, the 12-man Mobile Patrol Group of the Temecula Border Patrol Station arrested more than 400 undocumented immigrants in inland areas, including San Bernardino, Riverside and North Orange counties. The sweeps drew passionate criticism and cheers from local community members.
Border Patrol agents have not made any more interior arrests since this summer and say they are no longer allowed to do so.
The ACLU has requested information on the number of people questioned, of those the number of those traveling by foot and by vehicle, each person's country of citizenship, race and/or ethnicity, their visa status, the location, date and time of the encounter, any criminal or immigration charges filed, and other details.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Brenda Gazzar can be reached by e-mail email@example.com or by phone at (909) 483-9355.
Oh brother.. Some of the raids were conducted in Ontario. We're about two hours away from the border if that isn't near an international border I don't know what is.
Is there any end to these ridiculous lawsuits by the ACLU???
Here we are in the middle of a war and trying to secure the borders and these clowns have nothing better to do than to file frivolous lawsuits...
I want to sue the Border Patrol for stopping the raids.
Do these idiots ever defend someone or something that ISN'T a minority?
I want to sue the ACLU.
And the problem with this is... ????
I'll join you in that suit.
makes you wonder whose side the aclu is on.
Hispanics aren't a minority in California.
Anybody but America!!!
They are on their own side.
(crossing Newmans' Own Salad Dressing off the shopping list)
I'd like to know what the "bend over and take it because a Republican is in office" crowd thinks about this.
Their supporters are communists and homosexuals.
Where's Bush - oh yeah forgot he is afraid to stand up for middle america. Eletist like Bush probably love this -screw us we dont count we can all suffer with overcrowding in our schools and hospitals, increased crime, taxes and drugs - doesnt affect them.
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