Government Must Disclose Information about Immigration Raids

March 17, 2010

SAN DIEGO – The government’s failure to respond to a request for information about massive immigration raids conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) throughout California in December 2009 violates the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the San Diego ACLU said in a civil complaint filed this week.

On December 11, 2009, ICE announced that it arrested nearly 300 individuals in California in what it termed its “largest ever enforcement surge targeting criminal aliens.” ICE stated that over 80 percent of those arrested had previously been convicted of “serious or violent crimes.”

Immigrants’ rights groups were skeptical of these claims, and with good reason. Over the past several years, ICE’s budget for so-called “fugitive operations” has increased exponentially to hundreds of millions of dollars that Congress intends to be used to target “criminal aliens.” However, previous investigations into these operations have shown that historically only a small minority of those arrested had any criminal background and that ICE arrests are often conducted in a manner that violates the Constitution.

In order to answer important questions about the tailoring and constitutionality of the December California raids, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties filed a FOIA request on December 18, 2009, seeking documents relating to those raids. ICE has still not substantively responded to the request, even though FOIA imposes a 20 day deadline for it to do so.

In order to compel ICE to produce the requested information, the San Diego ACLU filed a complaint in federal district court on March 15, 2010. The complaint also seeks expedited processing of the request and a waiver of fees associated with the request.

“The history of ICE enforcement is troubling,” said Sean Riordan, staff attorney at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “The public has an urgent need to know whether the government is telling the truth about whether its immigration enforcement targets serious criminals.”

# # #

Read the ACLU Brief