This lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) challenges the failure of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and several of its components to produce records related to the abuse and mistreatment of children in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its sub-component, the U.S. Border Patrol. The ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties, along with the ACLU Foundation of Arizona, sought the requested records to shed light on longstanding allegations of abusive treatment of children, including prolonged detention in degrading and inhumane conditions, by the U.S. Border Patrol. Plaintiffs also sought information on how DHS components that are responsible for investigating and responding to complaints of abuse by agency personnel—including both the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG)—have handled complaints related to Border Patrol’s abuse of children.
When the government failed to produce any requested records within the statutorily-allotted time period, Plaintiffs filed suit seeking a court order compelling production.
After lengthy production delays by the Defendant agencies, the parties cross moved for summary judgment. Finally, in August 2017, the District Court ordered the government to conduct supplemental searches. The Court also ordered the government to release the names of CBP officials and Border Patrol agents credibly alleged to have mistreated children in their custody.
The government moved for reconsideration of the District Court’s ruling that certain DHS officials’ names should be released. In March 2018, the District Court denied the government’s motion for reconsideration and again ordered the agency to release the names of agents accused of misconduct. The government appealed that order to the Ninth Circuit. Briefing was completed in February 2019 and oral argument was held in San Francisco on May 16, 2019. The case was subsequently sent to mediation.
In October 2020, the parties reached a settlement that required the Defendant agencies to re-review documents and re-produce them to Plaintiffs, replacing previously-redacted names of certain individuals connected with an allegation of abuse against a minor in DHS custody with unique alpha-numeric identifiers. The agencies must re-review and re-produce the documents in accordance with the settlement on a rolling basis through April 2022. The District Court retains jurisdiction over the settlement to resolve any claims of a material breach of the parties’ agreement. Following entry of the stipulated settlement agreement, the Ninth Circuit dismissed the government’s appeal.
Using the original CRCL productions obtained through this lawsuit, the ACLU SDIC and the University of Chicago Law School International Human Rights Clinic published a report in May 2018 highlighting some of the egregious abuses reported by children and calling out the lack of meaningful response from DHS’ oversight agencies. The CRCL productions that form the report’s evidentiary basis are attached as an appendix to the report itself. The rest of the original (pre-appeal) productions from this lawsuit are available here for CBP, here for OIG, here for CRCL, and here for ICE.
For more information, including key court filings, please visit: https://holdcbpaccountable.org/2015/03/04/aclu-of-arizona-et-al-v-office-of-civil-rights-and-civil-liberties-dhs-et-al/