The lawsuit, filed in federal court, is a follow-up to an ignored Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request last July for information about the border agency’s “roving patrol” operations “during which agents stop and detain Southern Californians as far as 100 miles north of the Mexico border.”
Mitra Ebadolahi, an attorney with the ACLU Foundation of San Diego, said in a statement:
“In the course of these operations, federal agents routinely disregard the legal limitations on their authority and violate the civil rights of California residents and visitors. Yet DHS refuses to hold agents accountable and ignores basic requests for information about these abusive practices.”
Border patrol agents check transportation routes and are not unfamiliar sights around San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. But immigrant rights advocates say communities are regularly raided by the agents who don’t seem to be hunting for recent border crossers. Border Patrol officers have reduced standards for random searches of individuals they encounter within 100 miles of the border.
The ACLU wants data for the San Diego and El Centro sectors on the number of stops conducted and complaints filed by people who were stopped. They also want to know what the formal policies are for how such stops are executed.
California isn’t the only state where questions have been raised about Border Patrol roving. Agents have traveled 350 miles into the heart of Texas to stop people, with the color of their skin being the only visible reason for their arrest. Another ACLU lawsuit over data on roving patrols is currently pending in Arizona.
Records obtained in 2011 by the ACLU about Border Patrol operations in upstate New York showed the vast majority of stops were far from the border and didn’t target recent border crossers. Only 1% of the stops resulted in initiation of removal proceedings.
“The Border Patrol operates as a rogue agency, claiming extra-constitutional powers that extend far from any border, and operating with no effective oversight,” Adrienna Wong, an Southern California ACLU attorney, said about the suit.