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ACLU of Utah Files Lawsuit Demanding Information About Muslim Ban Implementation

17 April 2017 Published in Newsroom

“Customs & Border Patrol has a long history of ignoring its obligations under the federal Freedom of Information Act, a law that was enacted to ensure that Americans have timely access to information of pressing public concern.” Screen Shot 2017 02 03 at 10.19.51 AM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                
April 17, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — The ACLU of Utah, along with the ACLU of Northern California and the ACLU of Hawai’i, has filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demanding government documents related to the chaotic on-the-ground implementation of President Trump’s executive orders related to foreign travel from multiple majority-Muslim nations. Davis Wright Tremaine LLP is co-counsel in the lawsuit.  

The lawsuit, filed late last week, is one of 13 similar FOIA lawsuits filed by ACLU affiliates as part of a coordinated nationwide campaign to obtain information about how the now-stayed executive orders were implemented.  The lawsuit seeks records from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB)’s San Francisco field office, which has jurisdiction over Honolulu and Kona International Airports in Hawai’i, San Francisco International Airport in Northern California, and Salt Lake International Airport in Utah. CBP is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security.

“CBP has a long history of ignoring its obligations under the federal Freedom of Information Act, a law that was enacted to ensure that Americans have timely access to information of pressing public concern,” said Mitra Ebadolahi, Border Litigation Project Staff Attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, who helped to coordinate the 13-lawsuit effort. “The public has a right to know how federal immigration officials have handled the implementation of the Muslim bans, especially after multiple federal courts have blocked various aspects of these executive orders.”

The ACLU first sought this information through FOIA requests submitted to CBP in February, shortly after the disastrous weekend implementation of the Trump Administration’s first executive order seeking to prevent entry of individuals from eight majority Muslim nations and refugees. Since the government has failed to substantively respond to that initial request, the ACLU is now suing to ensure that the public is able to review the implementation practices that inspired thousands of Americans to rally at airports in support of incoming travelers and refugees. 

Each of the 13 lawsuits filed last week seeks unique and local information regarding how CBP implemented the Executive Orders at specific airports and ports of entry in the midst of rapidly developing – and sometimes conflicting – government guidance.

“We have seen a swell of concern and support for refugees from the people of Utah, who turned out in droves to welcome those few refugee families who managed to arrive at Salt Lake International Airport in the immediate aftermath of the chaos caused by President Trump’s Executive Orders,” said John Mejia, Legal Director of the ACLU of Utah. “There may have been objectionable plans to detain individuals at our airport and there may have been people detained and harassed that we are unaware of, but because CBP hasn’t answered our requests, we have no way to know.”   

The complaint can be downloaded at the ACLU of Utah website here.

All of the affiliate FOIA lawsuits are available here:
https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-cbp-foia-lawsuits-regarding-muslim-ban-implementation

The ACLU national press release is here:
https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-files-lawsuits-demanding-local-documents-implementation-trump-muslim-ban

The ACLU of Utah press release on the original FOIA requests is here:
http://acluutah.org/newsroom/item/1260-aclu-of-utah-files-foia-on-execution-of-trump-s-immigration-and-refugee-ban

More background on CBP’s FOIA practices is here:
https://www.aclu.org/letter/aclu-letter-cbp-re-foia-practices-july-2016

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